Skip to main content

Full text of "Recipes for Disaster: an anarchist cookbook"

See other formats





. ,- 

,' ' . 

■ '> • 

« 4- 


. ^ 




-«-^-^ ' "V'-g- 



'-r > 



Yes, disaster. 

and explore the unknown for a Me w^ Ta^":;" ^^ """ ^'' 
reprieve f„„.,our own Hfe, never know,ng?h:roTffj^;^^^^^^ 

you that we are in the Jd ofl e^osM "n ' 'T' '"^ ^"^^"^^ "^"""^ '^ 
as the natural environment L.« 1^ . slow-motion disaster in history, 

perience is stea^rd" heTo ' V" T' '"' ^"^ -^^^'^^ "^ l"™- - 
can. cook out of the r;^™^^^^^^^^ ^" -*> ^ '"-'er. you 

Whether disaster is sometM '' ^°' """" P^^^^^ ti^^es. 

e-pe, one thin, ilTr ^^n-L^Ze ^^C fuffi^^ ''^-'^'^'^ '^^ '" 
recipes for disaster. Here they are. anymore. We need 

Recipes for Disaster 

in anarchist cookbook 
a moveable feast 

E T H I N C . W ORKERS' COLLFrrivc / o 

»-OLLECTIVE / OlYMPIA / 200 4- 

official Winter 200^ 

Selection oftlie 

Department of 

Homeland Security 

Dangerous Books Club® 

"... describes in lurid 
detail how sensible, 

law-abiding citizens can 
be transformed into 

mayhem-making mobs." 

-Tom Ridge, Department 

of Homeland SecLirity 


Additional copies of this treatise can be obtained for $12 postpaid from 

Crimethlnc. Far East /P.O. Box 1963 / Olympia, WA 98507. 

A vast array of related material is also available from that address, most of it for 

the cost of postage alone. Forfiirther information, consult www.crimethinccom. 

N©! 200^ 

The publishers, the notorious Crimethlnc. ex- Workers' Collective, humbly 

put this book and all its contents at the disposal of those who, in good 

faith, might read, circulate, plagiarize, revise, and otherwise make use 

of them in the course of making the world a better place. Possession, 

reproduction, transmission, excerpting, introduction as evidence in court, 

and aU other applications by any corporation, government body, security 

organization, or similar party of evil intent are strictly prohibited and 

punishable under natural law. 

The Crimethlnc. ex-Workers' Collective is a memberless underground pledged to 
the total transformation of Western civilization and life itself. 

Printed on recycled paper with soy ink in Canada by the workers at Hignell Book Printing. 

Authonues take note: No members of the Crimethlnc. ex-Workers' CoUective endorse or 
engage m any of the dumb and dangerous activities described herein. As mMe UsI 
beneficianes of capitaHst iniquity, we have no incentive to contest the stt^w, t!t 


Your potential inconvenience, 

the Crimethlnc. Aaion Faction 

Disclaimer for 
Our Enemies 

Disclaimer for 
Our Friends 

"Plans are worthless, but planning is everything— keep yourself steeped in 
the character of the problem you are called on to solve." 

-President Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1957 





These are indeed recipes for disaster . Anyone with the sUghtest experience in the field knows 
that nothing ever goes as planned, especially not the first time. Inevitably, at that tense, 
trembling moment you call in the bomb threat, the receptionist will hang up on you before 
your recording device plays it— and you'll realize you only brought one clean quarter. 

This book can serve as a source of information, but it is meant at least as much as a 
source of inspiration— it is an attempt to broaden the pubUc toolbox, to encourage others 
to try out wild ideas of their own. It is indeed important that beginners around the world 
be armed with specific skills that are ubiquitous in some contexts but have never been ap- 
plied in others, but the process of discovery and experimentation is always more valuable 
than the products thereof Don't abide by any formula in here— improvise, improvise. 

Many of the recipes we composed for this volume were test-driven in small towns 
We selected such locations for our rigorous process of experimentation and analysis on 
the grounds that they were utterly unremarkable. Perhaps the importance of San Fran- 
cisco and Barcelona in the struggle for freedom and adventure for all has been overesti- 
mated; not everyone can or should live in such places, and besides, many revolutionary 
strategies which are now impossible in these cities are still tremendously dangerous 
everywhere else. Why risk arrest in the financial district to put up graffiti that will only 
remam for a few hours, when there are a thousand unguarded stop signs in the suburbs 
waiting to sing your song? Quite a few of these recipes are designed especially for the 
Middles-of-Nowhere of our world, the nondescript margins of history where Nothing 
Ever Happens. As they say, the quickest way to the top is to turn the world upside down 
Revolution is, among other things, a reversal: the first becomes the last, the margin be- 
comes the mamstream, the nameless convict becomes Nestor Makhno, commander of 
the anarchist armies of the Ukraine. The anonymous, inexperienced teenagers who get 
their hands on this book in Missoula, Montana could be the ones to make hip New York 
and this book itself, totally obsolete. If you're one of them-wherever you live, however 
old you are— for everyone's sake, don't underestimate your own strength. 

One more subject bears comment-the countless recipes left out of this book espe- 
ciaUy the ones you think we should have included. Those, my friend, are the first recipes 
m ^lour book, which you had better start writing as soon as possible. 

Yours for total destruction and recreation, 
and wishing you many a sweet repast, 

Crimethlnc. International Federation 
of Food Service Industry Escapees 

"With work reduced to a few hours 
a week and other redundant rituals 
discarded, the substance of life shall 
be given over to the planning of gala 
celebrations and the anticipation of 
perfect meals." 
-F.I Marionetti, Futurist Cookbook 

Setting the Table 

12 ■ Preface: Direct Action — 

what it is, and what it's good for 

28 ■ Affinity Groups 

35 ■ Antifascist Action 

66 ■ Asphalt Mosaics 

75 • Banner Drops and Banner Hoists 

85 ■ Behavioral Cut-ups 

92 • Bicycle Collectives 
100 Bicycle Parades 
107 Painting by Bicycle 

111 • How to Make a Bicycle into a Record Player 
114 • Billboard Improvement 
127 ■ Blocs, Black and Otherwise 
162 ' Blockades and Lockdowns 
178 • Classroom Takeover 
183 • Coalition Building 
191 Collectives 
205 • Corporate Downsizing 
210 ■ Distribution, Tabling, and Infoshops 

219 ■ Dumpster Diving 

229 • Effigies 

234 • Evasion 

241 - Festivals 

248 • Food Not Bombs 

258 ■ Graffiti 

269 ■ Guerrilla Performances 

275 • Health Care 

287 ' Hijacking Events 

296 • Hitchhiking 

306 ■ Infiltration 

322 - Inflatables 

329 • Legal Support 

336 Marches and Parades 

346 • Independent Media 

358 • Mainstream Media 

366 ■ Mental Health 

383 • Musical Instruments 

392 ' Newspaper Wraps 

397 • Nonmonogamous Relationships 

of Contents . . . 






















Pie Throwing 
Portrait Exchange 
Reclaim the Streets 
How to Build a Rocketstove 
Security Culture 

Smoke Bombs 
Spell Casting 

Supporting Survivors of Domestic Violence 
Surviving a Felony Trial 


614 ■ 
616 • 

• Undermining Oppression 

• Unemployment 

■ Utilities 

• Wheatpasting 

■ How to Join Crimethlnc. 

• About the Authors 
Further Reading 
Conversion Tables 

"Take care of yourself!" screamed the Red Queen, 
seizing Alice's hair with both her hands. 
''Something's going to happen!" 


Direct Action — 
What It Is... 

This is a handbook for direct action. It's not the only one — there are thousands: every 
gardener's guide is a direct action handbook, as is every cookbook. Any action that side- 
steps regulations, representatives, and authorities to accomplish goals directly is direct 
action. In a society in which political power, economic capital, and social control are 
centralized in the hands of an elite, certain forms of direct action are discouraged, to say 
the least; this book is about those in particular, for anyone who wants to take control of 
her life and accept responsibility for her part in determining the fate of humanity. 

For the civilian bom in captivity and raised on spectatorship and submission, direct 
action changes everything. The morning she arises to put a plan into motion, she awak- 
ens under a different sun— if she has been able to sleep at all, that is — and in a different 
body, attuned to every detail of the world around her and possessed of the power to 
change it. She finds her companions endowed with tremendous courage and resource- 
fulness, equal to monumental challenges and worthy of passionate love. Together, they 
enter a foreign land where outcomes are uncertain but anything is possible and every 
minute counts. 

Direct Action versus 

Practicing direct action means acting directly to meet needs, rather than relying on rep- 
resentatives or choosing from prescribed options. Today tiie term is commonly applied 
to the use of illegal protest tactics to pressure governments and corporations to make 
certain decisions, which at bottom is not much different from voting or making cam- 
paign contributions; but it most properly describes actions that cut out the middleman 
entirely to solve problems without mediation. 

Need some examples? You can give money to a charity organization, or you can start 
your own chapter of Food Not Bombs and feed yourself and other hungry people at 
once. You can write an angry letter to the editor of a magazine that doesn't provide good 
coverage of the subjects you consider important, or you can start your own magazine. 

You can vote for a mayor who promises to start a new program to help the homeless 
or you can squat unused buildings and open them up as free housing for anyone in 
need. You can write your Congressman, asking him to oppose a law that would allow 
corporations to cut down old-growth forests-but if they still pass that law, you can go 
to the forests and stop the cutting by sitting in trees, blockading roads, and monkey- 
wrenching machinery. 

The opposite of direct action is representation. There are many Hnds of representa- 
tion-words are used to represent ideas and experiences, the viewers of a soap opera let 
their own hopes and fears be represented by those of the protagonists, the pope claims 
to represent God-but the most well-known example today can be found in the electoral 
system. In this society, we're encouraged to think of voting as our primary means of 
exercising power and participating sociaUy. Yet whether one votes with a ballot for a 
politician's representation, with doUars for a corporate product, or with one's wardrobe 
for a youth culhire, voting is an act of deferral, in which the voter picks a person or sys- 
tem or concept to represent her interests. This is an unreliable way to exercise power to 
say the least. 

Let's compare voting with direct action, to bring out the differences between medi- 

ated and unmediated activity in general. Voting is a lottery: if a candidate doesn't get 
elected, then the energy his constituency put into supporting him is wasted as the 
power they were hoping he would exercise for them goes to someone else. With direct 
action, one can be certain that one's work will offer results. In marked contrast to every 
kmd of petitioning, direct action secures resources-experience, contacts in the com- 
munity, the grudging respect of adversaries— that others can never take away. 

Voting consolidates the power of a whole society in the hands of a few individuals- 
through sheer force of habit, not to speak of other methods of enforcement, everyone 
else IS kept in a position of dependence. In direct action, people utilize their own re- 7"^'" 


sources and capabilities, discovering in the process what these are and how much they 
can accomplish. 

Voting forces everyone in a movement to try to agree on one platform: coalitions fight 
over what compromises to make, each faction insisting that its way is the best and that 
the others are messing everything up by not going along with its program. A lot of en- 
ergy gets wasted in these disputes and recriminations. In direct action, no vast consen- 
sus is necessary: different groups apply different tactics according to what they beUeve 
in and feel comfortable doing, with an eye to complementing one another's efforts. 
People involved in different direct actions have no need to squabble, unless they really 
are seeking conflicting goals, or years of voting have taught them to fight with anyone 
who doesn't think exactiy as they do. 

Conflicts over voting often distract from the real issues at hand, as people get caught 
up in the drama of one party against another, one candidate against another, one agenda 
against another. With direct action, the issues themselves are raised, addressed specifi- 
cally, and often resolved. 

Voting is only possible when election time comes around. Direct action can be applied 
whenever one sees fit. Voting is only usefiil for addressing topics that are currently on the 
political agendas of candidates, while direct action can be applied in every aspect of your 
life, in every part of the world you live in. Direct action is a more efficient use of resources 
than voting, campaigning, or canvassing; an individual can accomplish with one dollar a 
goal that would cost a collective ten dollars, a non-governmental organization a hundred 
dollars, a corporation a thousand dollars, and the State Department ten thousand dollars. 

Voting is glorified as a manifestation of our supposed freedom. It's not freedom — 
freedom is getting to decide what the choices are in the first place, not picking between 
Pepsi and Coca-Cola. Direct action is the real thing. You make the plan, you create the 

14 options, the sky's the limit. 

Ultimately, there's no reason the strategies of voting and direct action can't both 
be applied together. One does not cancel the other out. The problem is that so many 
people think of voting as their primary way of exerting political and social power that a 
disproportionate amount of time and energy is focused on electoral affairs while other 
opportunities to make change go to waste. For months and months preceding every 
election, everyone argues about the voting issue, what candidates to vote for or whether 
to vote at all, when voting itself takes less than an hour. Vote or don't, but get on with 
it! Remember all the other ways you can make your voice heard. This book is for people 
who are ready to get some more practice using them. 

Direct action need not be popular to be effective. The point of a direct action is the action 
Itself, not pandering to supposed public opinion or anticipated media coverage. Those 
raised in Democracy Monoculture on the assumption that voting is the alpha and ome- 
ga of social participation often presume that the only possible purpose of any political 
activity is to convert others to a position in order to build a constituency; consequently 
they fail to recognize the broad diversity of roles direct action can serve. These are the 
people who are always quick to pontificate about how graffiti hurts the public image of 
"the" movement, or how individual artistic projects are irrelevant to the needs of "the" 
people. But helping "convert the masses" is only one of many roles a direct action can 
play Let's go over some of the others. 

Direct action may simply solve an individual problem: a household needs to eat, so 
food is grown, dumpstered, or stolen; an advertisement is offensive, so it is torn down 
or adjusted; a circle of friends wants to learn more about Latin American literature, so a 
reading group is established. Direct action can be a means for a small group to contrib- 
ute to a community: people need to know that a rapist has been active in the neighbor- 
hood, so fliers are made and posted; police are out of hand, so a cop-watching program 

. . . And What 
It's Good Far 


is initiated. Direct action can be an opportunity for small groups to get used to working 
together in larger networks: the slumlord won't fix anyone's apartment, so a tenants' 
union forms to organize a rent strike. 

Direct action can be applied to sway the opinion of a whole nation, but it can also be 
addressed to a small, specific group that can more easily be infiuenced: street graffiti 
may not be taken seriously by middle-class adults, but some of their children experience 
it as a revelation. Direct action can be for the benefit of isolated individuals, rather than 
"the" mainstream: a wheatpasted poster reading Pity Concrete Doesn't Burn may 
not be widely appreciated, but it will help others who share this sentiment to feel that 
they are not entirely alone and insane, and it might inspire them to turn their silent 
rancor into expressive projects of their own. 

Direct action can give visibility to a group or perspective not otherwise represented, or 
emphasize the possibility of a viewpoint those in power would deny: a newspaper wrap 
spreads the news the corporate media won't share, just as broken corporate windows 
prove that, whatever the pundits say, not everyone is happy under capitalism. Direct ac- 
tion can demonstrate that social facts and physical conditions that seem inevitable are 
actually subject to change: an unpermitted street party that transforms a shopping dis- 
trict into a free, festive space shows that the fiinction of any space is up for grabs. Direct 
action can make life less predictable, more magical and exciting or at least humorous, 
for chance spectators as well as participants. When business as usual is oppressive and 
depressing, simply interrupting it is a service to all. • 

Popular or not, direct action can keep important issues in the news and in private 
conversations: sabotaging an environmentally destructive dam can bring up its ecologi- 
cal effects, whether or not people approve of the sabotage itself Direct action can give a 
r group political and social leverage: in the 1980s, Dutch squatters facing threat of evic- 

i6 tion demonstrated their power with a directed campaign of harassment and vandalism 

that lost Amsterdam its bid to host the Olympic Games, and thus gained an advantage 
for bargaimng with the city for their homes. Direct action can provide a deterrent" after 
the demonstrations during the meeting of the World Trade Organization in Seattle no 
nation but Qatar would host the next WTO summit. People who would not otherwise 
oppose their government's going to war may do so if they know war will trigger massive 
demonstrations that will cripple business and interfere with daily life. 

Direct action can hinder corporate wrongdoing by inflicting financial losses: animal 
rights activists have driven several fur corporations out of business by means of vandal- 
ism, obstruction, and picketing. Direct action can discredit or disable nefarious organi- 
zations by connecting them in the public mind to violence and trouble: if every time a 
racist party tries to hold a meeting it ends in street riots, no city is likely to permit them 
to meet openly and few converts will join their ranks. Direct action can polarize op- 
ponents: when one cannot persuade or at least coexist with adversaries, a campaign of 
provocation and interference can drive them to a paranoid extremism that wiU alienate 
them from everyone else. 

Direct action can set an atmosphere for an event: if banners have been dropping and 
pirate radio stations broadcasting aU week, everyone will expect the weekend's corporate 
trade conference and anarchist counter-demonstration to be historic— and that expec- 
tation will help itself come true. Direct action can demonstrate tactics that others can 
appropnate and use themselves; for years, these tactics may only be relevant to a small 
minority, until in a time of crisis they are suddenly indispensable to everyone When the 
cnsis hits, it will be to the advantage of all that some have already been practicing and 
perfecting these skiUs, and that everyone else has at least heard of them. 

Direct action can save lives and give those who engage in it back their dignity by 
enabling them to confront injustice directly, as in animal liberation raids It can be the 
best form of therapy, helping those who act to cure feelings of boredom, hopelessness 'f'" 

and impotence. When one is doing nothing, everything seems impossible; once one 
has begun doing something, it is easier to imagine what else is possible and recognize 
opportunities as they arise. 

Direct action offers the chance to cash in one's convictions and desires as the hfe 
experiences they rightfully should be. Don't just think about it, don't just talk about it, 
for heaven's sake don't just bicker about it— do it! Direct action is a means for getting 
in the healthy habit of acting rather than looking on: every impulse that is allowed to 
flow into action is a spell cast for more of the same. In this passive, paralyzed society, we 
desperately need to nourish in ourselves the habits of engagement and participation. As 
they say, direct action gets the goods. 

Mutual Aid Anyone with direct action skills stands to gain from sharing them with others. This is 
and Outreach the opposite of "converting" people: it means empowering people to be themselves, not 
attempting to turn them into copies of oneself The more capable each individual and 
group is, the more all can offer each other, and the more all are able to enforce their 
equality. The dissemination of direct action skills fosters relationships of coexistence 
and mutual aid, as well as undermining hierarchy and oppression: when people are 
similarly informed, equipped, and versed in taking initiative, they have more at stake in 
learning to get along, and freedom and equality necessarily proceed. 

Accordingly anarchists and other partisans of direct action do not give orders or offer 
leadership: direct action is an adjective followed by a noun, not a verb followed by an 
object! Instead, they demonstrate options by acting autonomously being careful to ex- 
tend to others whatever knowledge and resources experience provides — this book being 
a case in point. 

Many who set out to educate others about injustice make the mistake of providing 
^^ ^7s them with a great deal of data without offering any ideas about what to do. Overwhelmed 

with facts, figures, and bad news, most people find it harder to take action, not easier; 
thus, such attempts to raise awareness for the sake of provoking change often sabotage 
themselves. When informing people, it is wise to apply this rule of thumb: for every is- 
sue you introduce, spend as much time and energy presenting skills, suggestions, and 
opportunities for action as you do presenting information and background. A similar 
rule of thumb is that the more comparable a person's circumstances are to yours, the 
more he or she might gain from hearing your suggestions and perspectives; the more 
your life stories diverge, the more you will benefit from listening and learning, rather 
than prescribing outside the context you know. 

It also happens that some who practice direct action, eager to be out from under 
the yoke of their oppressors, escalate their engagement with these powers to such an 
extent that no one else can join in. This is often to their misfortiine. When considering 
a tactic, it's important to ask to what degree it enables others to act as well, rather than 
leaving them immobilized as spectators. For example, the black bloc at the protests 
against the World Trade Organization in Seattle in 1999 presented a model that others 
subsequently employed countless times to great effbct, while the tactics of the Weather 
Underground in the 1970s achieved some impressive feats but failed to resuft in many 
people becoming similarly active. In the long run, the most powerful tactics are the 
ones that inspire and equip others to join the fight. It is important to pace the escala- 
tion of a struggle so that new people get involved at a faster rate than participants are 
immobilized by repression: this is how the momentiim that generates revolutions is 
created. Your enemies on high want notiiing more than to isolate you from everyone 
else who is angry for the same reasons. Make a point of staying accessible and connect- 
ed to others, so they can come with you if they like when you set out on your journey to 
a new world. 


Diversity of Tactics Communities that practice direct action are often plagued by conflicts over which tactics 

are most efFective and appropriate. Such debates are usually impossible to resolve — and 
that's a good thing. Instead, to the extent it is possible, the activities of those employing 
different methods and even those pursuing differing goals should be integrated into a 
mutually beneficial whole. 

Accepting a diversity of tactics provides for the broad diversity of real human beings. 
Every individual has a different life history, and consequently finds different activities 
meaningful and liberating. Insisting that everyone should adopt the same approach is 
arrogant and shortsighted — it presumes that you are entitled to make judgments on 
others' behalf — and also unrealistic: any strategy that demands that everyone think and 
act the same way is doomed to failure, for human beings are not that simple or submis- 
sive. Critics often charge that the tactics they oppose will alienate potential participants, 
but the more diverse the tactics employed by a movement, the wider the range of people 
who can recognize among those tactics approaches that appeal to them. It may be neces- 
sary for factions applying different tactics to distance themselves from one another in 
the public eye, but this need not be done in an antagonistic spirit. 

A movement that employs a diversity of tactics is able to adapt to changing contexts . 
Such a movement is a laboratory in which various methods can be tested; the ones that 
work will be easy to identify, and will naturally become popular. As we haven't yet suc- 
ceeded in overthrovmig capitalism once and for all by any method, all methods are still 
worth trying, in case one works. In this sense, those who employ tactics other than the 
ones you favor are doing you a service by saving you the trouble of having to test them 
for yourself. 

DiflFerent tactics, applied in conjunction, can complement one another. Just as the 

r more confrontational politics of Malcolm X forced privileged whites to take the non-vio- 

20 lent civil disobedience of Martin Luther King, Jr. seriously, a combination of tactics from 

accessible and participatory to militant and controversial can simultaneously attract at- 
tention to a struggle, offer opportunities for people to get involved at their own pace, and 
provide those who engage in it with leverage on a variety of levels. 

Honoring a diversity of tactics means refraining from attacking those whose cho- 
sen approaches seem to you to be ineffective, and instead focusing on what missing 
elements you can add to make their efforts effective. Thus, it reframes the question of 
strategy m terms of personal responsibility: at every juncture, the question is not what 
somebody else should be doing, but what you can do. 

The importance of a diversity of tactics doesn't apply only when it is convenient for 
you. Don't claim to support a diversity of tactics and then argue that— just in this partic- 
ular case, of course-others should prioritize your agenda over their own. Recognizing 
the value of diversity of tactics means taking into account that others will make different 
decisions based on their differing perspectives, and respecting this even when their 
decisions baflfle you. 

Accepting the legitimacy of a diversity of tactics means moving from a competitive 
mindset in which there is only one right way of doing things to a more inclusive and 
nuanced way of thinking. This contests hierarchies of value as well as of power, and 
undermines rigid abstractions such as "violence" and "morality." 

Finally respect for diverse tactics enables disparate groups to build durable solidarity. 
Such sohdanty must be founded on a commitment to coexisting and collaborating in 
harmony, rather than on limiting demands for unity. 

Just as some shortsightedly reject tactics other than their own as ineffective, others 
feel the need to compete to determine whose tactics are the most committed or the most 
impressive. But the most dramatic triumphs of militant direct action are only possible 
thanks to the support of people applying more conventional approaches, and vice versa 
It IS important that we not see tactics as existing in a hierarchy of value, from risk-free T, " 

and insignificant to dangerous and glorious, but ratiier in an ecosystem in which all 
play an irreplaceable role. As revolutionaries, our role in such an ecosystem is to create 
a mutually-enhancing harmony between our efforts and those of others, even if some of 
them want to waste time competing with us for the currency of "being right" or "being 
bravest." No tactic can be effective alone; all can be effective together. 

Legal and lUega! Sometimes direct action means breaking the law. Indeed, direct action is a way of re- 
negotiating laws, both written and unwritten. When people act according to conscience 
rather than convention, when they transgress deliberately and en masse, reality itself 
can be remade. This is not to say that you can get away with breaking laws just by ceas- 
ing to believe in them; but if everyone breaks them with you, the dynamics change. 

The agents of law enforcement are at the mercy of many factors at once. Their job, of 
course, is to enforce the laws on the books, protecting power and property and keeping 
human and financial resources flowing to the judicial industry and the prison-industrial 
complex. At the same time, to some extent, they are at the mercy of public opinion: the 
public, or at least the privileged sectors thereof, has to beUeve that tiiey are "doing their 
job," but not overdoing it. They are also limited by simple logistics: if fifty people run out 
of a supermarket at once without paying, a single police officer can only hope to arrest 
one or two at best. On top of all this, they are only human (and that's flattering them): 
they have fragUe egos to keep appeased, they can be slow on the uptake, their infrastruc- 
tures are often badly organized and inefficient. It is possible to distract them, surprise 
them, even demoralize them. 

Whenever you consider breaking the law, take into account all the factors that will 

influence the police response. Legal and illegal are not immutable aspects of the cos- 

r mos — they are as fluid as context itself: it's not against the law if you don't get caught, as 

22 every schoolchild and corporate CEO knows. An unpermitted march that would result 

in twenty arrests if attempted by twenty people can take place unobstructed if under- 
taken by two hundred; at the same time, twenty people with a plan and the certainty that 
It can be carried out can easily accomplish objectives that two hundred, less prepared, 
never could. Ultimately when it comes to direct action, the laws are immaterial: if what 
you are doing really is subversive, the authorities wiR attempt to stop you whether it is 
legal or not— if they can. Your numbers, your courage, your preparation and foresight, 
your commitment to supporting one another, above all your conviction that what you 
are doing is possible: these are your permits, your guarantees, and you need no others. 
When you participate in hazardous activities, it's important not to take things farther 
than you feel ready to go: if you get hurt or arrested or otherwise in trouble while en- 
gaging in a level of risk for which you are not emotionally prepared, the effects can be 
debilitating. Far better that you get started slowly and conservatively, building a sustain- 
able involvement with direct action projects that can continue over a lifetime, than that 
you rush into an action with wild abandon, have a bad experience, and swear off all such 
activity. Pace yourself and always quit while you're ahead, so you can learn and develop 
your instincts at a safe rate. Believe it or not, there are people well into the prime of life 
who have fought all their Hves in the war against capitalism without ever getting caught. 
Let's challenge ourselves and the world, let's run risks and push limits, but let's do so 
consciously and carefully, as part of a long-term process, so the experiences we gain in 
doing so will not go to waste! 

One day, when the conflict between people and power approaches its cHmax, every- 
thmg we do will be illegal; then, perhaps, courage and cooperation will win out over fear 
and tyranny, and we will break the law once and for aU. In the meantime, every instance 
of direct action, humble as it may be, is a microcosm of that decisive moment, and a 
potential seed from which it may grow. 

'Biff what if I 
get caught?" 

you're already 
caught. Better 
ask yourself — 
what if you 
get free? 


Nurturing a Direct 
Action Community 


Although nothing Is ever so simple, let's postulate that there are four essential elements 
that must be present for a community to become conscious of its own power and get in 
the practice of using it deliberately. First, at least a handful of individuals must invest 
themselves in direct action, mutual aid, and revolutionary social change as life projects. 
It takes the full-time labor, consumption, and faith of millions to maintain the protec- 
tion racket that enforces servility, scarcity, and alienation. Whenever even a few of us 
stop investing ourselves in perpetuating this system and instead apply our resources to 
create a space outside its dictates, wondrous things can happen. 

Second, direct action must be employed to provide for people's basic needs in a way that 
promotes self-reliance and builds networks of cooperation and trust. This might mean 
serving free meals in the park, or stopping an eviction by force, or organizing radical 
concerts and social events — the need for entertainment and camaraderie is no less funda- 
mental than the need for food or for housing. The more people are able to meet their needs 
direcdy and together, the less they need the capitalist system and the conditional solutions 
it offers — and the more they can invest themselves in building alternatives to it. 

Third, the power of direct action must be demonstrated in exciting, accessible, par- 
ticipatory ways. Rather than letting direct action become the specialty of a subculture 
or expert class, those who appreciate its value should arrange opportunities for people 
of all walks of life to take part in it, starting with the communities with which they are 
most famihar. Everyone who is involved in such demonstrations should have empower- 
ing experiences that indicate the possibility of an entirely different way of life. For this 
to occur, the character of each demonstration must be dictated by the needs and cir- 
cumstances of those who are to participate: a class of bored and rebellious high school 
students might discover their collective power by staging a walkout, while the residents 
of a neighborhood could experience a similar revelation in the course of tending a com- 
munity garden. AU events and contexts are ripe for conversion into participatory direct 

action, however hopelessly repressive they may seem: a speech at a stuffy ceremony can 
swifHy be transformed into a hurricane of creative heckling, just as a crowd of docile 
consumers at a concert can take to the streets in an unpermitted march— all it takes is 
for a few individuals to seize a previously unthinkable but longed-for possibility in a way 
that IS contagious. These demonstrations should not simply be isolated events: it should 
be easy for those they inspire to become connected to ongoing projects and communi- 
ties in which they can give substance to their new visions. 

Finally, an atmosphere must be created that provokes curiosity, builds momentum, 
and maintains morale. Everywhere people go, there should be evidence that something 
IS afoot, that big changes are in store. The subject of direct action, however controver- 
sial, should be on the tip of every tongue, and the substance of it scrawled on every wall 
and employed in every workplace. Wild speculations, whispered rumors, secret invita- 
tions, passionate crusades, epic triumphs, surprises, suspense, drama, adventure: these 
are the stuff of revolutions, and without them it is not possible to break the deadlock 
between fear and desire. 

Despite your best attempts, there will be periods when momentum dies down and it 
seems you are losing the ground you gained. During a waning phase of activity, don't 
panic or give up hope. Pace yourself, take it in stride as part of the cycle of life- it will 
pass. Weather it with the others that stick around, focusing on the worthwhile projects 
you can undertake without a crowd around you. Use this period to consolidate what 
you've learned and built, and to develop new relationships and proficiencies so you'll be 
ready to take things even farther when the action starts to heat up again— as it wiU. 

Don't let anyone tell you nothing ever changes. Revolutions always happen, as sure as 
the earth goes on turning. The only question is whether we participate in them uncon- 
sciously, washing our hands of responsibility for the choices we make, or deliberately, 
bringing our dreams into being with every step. ^'^^"^^ 

pn anarchist cookbook 
^ a moveable feast 

Affinity Croups 

Ingredients Acircleoffriends 
a good idea 
Plans for different scenarios 

Structures for responding to 

unexpected scenarios 
A LITTLE COURAGE (may he optional, 
hut should he at hand just in case) 
Subsequent discussion 

Instructions Chances are, even if you have never been involved in direct action before, even if this is 
the first radical text you have ever encountered, that you are already part of an affinity 
group — the structure proven most effective for guerrilla activities of all kinds. An affinity 
group is a circle of friends who, knowing each other's strengths, weaknesses, and back- 
grounds, and having already established a common language and healthy internal dy- 
namics, set out to accomplish a goal or series of goals. 

An affinity group is not a permanent arrangement, but a structure of convenience, 
ever mutable, assembled from the pool of interested and trusted people for the duration 
of a given project. Once assembled, this group may choose to be "closed," if security dic- 
tates: that is, whatever goes on within the group is never spoken of outside it, even after 
all its activities are long completed. A particular team can act together over and over as 
an affinity group, but the members can also participate in other affinity groups, break 
28 up into smaller affinity groups, and act outside the affinity group structure. 

The size of an affinity group can range from two to, say, fifteen individuals, depend- 
ing on the action in question; but no group should be so numerous that an informal 
conversation about pressing matters is impossible. You can always split up into two or 
more groups, if there are enough of you. In actions that require driving, the easiest sys- 
tem is to have one affinity group to each vehicle. 

Affinity groups can be practically invincible. They cannot be infiltrated, because all 
members share history and intimacy with each other, and no one outside the group 
need be informed of their plans or activities. They are more efficient than the most pro- 
fessional military force: they are free to adapt to any situation; they need not pass their 
decisions through any complicated process of ratification; all individuals can act and 
react mstantly without waiting for orders, yet with a clear idea of what to expect from 
one another. The mutual admiration and inspiration on which they are founded make 
them very difficult to demoralize. In stark contrast to capitaUst, fascist, and communist 
stoictures, they function without any need for hierarchy or coercion: participation in an 
affinity group can be fun as well as effective. Most important of all, they are motivated by 
shared desire and loyalty, rather than profit, duty, or any other compensation or abstiac- 
tion: small wonder whole squads of riot police have been held at bay by small affinity 
groups armed with only the tear gas canisters shot at them. 

Affinity groups operate on the consensus model: decisions are made collectively 
based on the needs and desires of every individual involved. Democratic votes in which 
t^ majority get their way and the minority must hold their tongues, are anathema to 
affinity groups: if a group is to function smoothly and hold together, every individual 
involved must be satisfied. In advance of any action, the members of a group establish 
togetiier what their personal and collective goals are, what tiieir readiness for risk is {as 
individuals and as a group), and what their expectations of each otiier are. These matters 
determined, they formulate a plan. ^-^"'^^ ^''°^P^ 

Affinity Groups 

Since action situations are always unpredictable and plans rarely come off as antici- 
pated, an affinity group usually has a dual approach to preparing for these. On the one 
hand, plans are made for different scenarios: if A happens, we'll inform each other by X 
means and switch to plan B; if X means of communication is impossible, we'll reconvene at site 
ZatQ o'clock. On the other hand, structures are put in place that will be useful even if 
what happens resembles none of the imagined scenarios: internal roles are divided up, 
communication systems (such as two-way radios, or coded phrases for conveying secret 
information or instructions aloud) are established, general strategies (for maintaining 
composure, keeping sight of one another in confusing environments, or blocking police 
charges, to name some examples) are prepared, emergency escape routes are charted, 
legal support is readied in case anyone gets arrested. After an action, a shrewd affinity 
group will meet (again, if necessary, in a secure location) to discuss what went well, what 
could have gone better, and what comes next. 

An affinity group answers to itself alone — ^this is one of its great strengths. Affinity 
groups are not burdened by the procedural protocol of other organizations, the difficulties 
of reaching accord among strangers or larger numbers of people, or the hmitations of 
answering to a body not immediately involved in the action. At the same time, just as 
the members of an affinity group strive for consensus with each other, each affinity 
group should strive for a similarly considerate relationship with other individuals and 
groups — or, at the very least, to complement others' approaches wherever possible, even 
if these others do not recognize the value of their contribution. People shoiild be thrilled 
about the participation or intervention of affinity groups, not resent or fear them; they 
should come to recognize the value of the affinity group model, and so come to apply it 
themselves, from seeing it succeed and from benefiting from that success. 

An affinity group can work together with other affinity groups, in what is sometimes 
called a cluster. The cluster formation enables a larger number of individuals to act with 

the same advantages a single affinity group has. If speed or secrecy is called for, repre- 
sentatives of each group can meet ahead of time, rather than the entirety of all groups; 

if coordination is of the essence, the groups or representatives can arrange methods 

for communicating through the heat of the action. Over years of collaborating together, 

different affinity groups can come to know each other as weU as they know themselves,' 

and become accordingly more comfortable and capable together. 
^ When several dusters of affinity groups need to coordinate especially massive ac- 
tions—for a big demonstration, for example— they can hold a spokescouncil meeting. 

In this author's humble experience, the most effective, constructive spokescouncils are 

those that limit themselves to providing a forum in which different affinity groups and 

clusters can inform one another (to whatever extent is wise) of their intentions, rather 

than seeking to direct activity or dictate principles for all. Such an unwieldy format is 

ill-suited to lengthy discussion, let alone debate; and whatever decisions are made or ^°'' "" ^'^^ y°^'' ^''^"^^ massages 

limitations imposed, by such a spokescouncil will inevitably fail to represent the wishes °" ' '''^"''' ^'?' '^J' '^'" ^"'^ 

of all involved, ^e independence and spontaneity that dLentralizLl" ro^dl a^I ''''''"' "^ '"'''' '"' '^' '''''■ 

our greatest advantages in combat with an enemy that has all the other advantages, 

anyway — why sacrifice these. > 

TTie affinity group is not only a vehicle for changing the world— like any good an- 
archist practice, it is also a model for alternative worlds, and a seed from which such 
worlds can grow. In an anarchist economy, decisions are not made by boards of direc- 
tors, nor tasks carried out by masses of worker drones: affinity groups decide and act 
together. Indeed, the affinity group/cluster/spokescouncil model is simply another in- 
carnation of the communes and workers' councils that formed the backbone of earlier 
successful {however short-lived) anarchist revolutions. 

Not only is the affinity group the best format for getting things done, it's practically 
essential You should always attend any event that might prove exciting in an affinity T"' ""'""' 

Let jive girls and boys meet who 

are resolued to the lightning of 

action rather than the quiet agony 

of survival— from that moment, 
despair ends and tactics begin. 

Affinity Croups 

group — not to mention the ones that won't be otherwise! Without a structure that en- 
courages ideas to flow into action, without friends with whom to brainstorm and barn- 
storm and build up momentum, you are paralyzed, cut off from much of your own 
potential; with them, you are multiplied by ten, or ten thousand! "Never doubt that a 
small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world," as Margaret Mead 
wrote: "it's the only thing that ever has." She was referring, whether she knew the jargon 
or not, to affinity groups. If every individual in every action against the state and status 
quo participated as part of a tight-knit, dedicated affinity group, this revolution would be 
over in a few short years. 

You don't need to find a revolutionary organization to join to get active — ^you and your 
friends already comprise one! Together, you can change the world. Stop wondering what's 
going to happen, or why noffiing's happening, and start deciding what will happen. Don't 
just show up at the next demonstration, protest, punk show, traffic jam, or day at work 
in passive spectator mode, waiting to be told what to do. Get in the habit of trading crazy 
ideas about what shoiild happen at these events — and of making those ideas reality! 

An affinity group could be a sewing circle, a bicycle maintenance collective, or a trav- 
eling clown troupe; it could come together for the purpose of starting a local chapter 
of Food Not Bombs, discovering how to turn a bicycle into a record player, or forcing 
a multinational corporation out of business through a carefully orchestrated program 
of sabotage. Affinity groups have planted and defended community gardens, built and 
burned down and squatted buildings, organized neighborhood childcare programs and 
wildcat strikes; individual affinity groups routinely initiate revolutions in the visual arts 
and popular music. Your favorite band — they were an affinity group. It was an affinity 
group that invented the airplane. Another, composed of disgrunded Nietzsche enthu- 
siasts, nearly succeeded in assassinating Adolph Hitler during the Second World War. 
One published this book. 

For affinity groups and larger structures similarly based on consensus and coopera- 
tion to function, it is essential that everyone involved be able to rely on each other to 
come through on their commitments. When a plan is agreed upon, each individual in 
a group and each group in a cluster should choose one or more critical aspects of the 
preparation and execution of the plan and offer to bottomline them. Bottomlining the 
supplying of a resource or the completion of a project means guaranteeing that it will be 
accomplished somehow, no matter what. If you're operating the legal hotline for your 
group during a demonstration, you owe it to them to handle it even if you get sick; if 
your group promises to provide the banners for an action, make sure they're ready, even 
if that means staying up all night the night before because the rest of your affinity group 
never showed up. Over time you'll learn how to handle crises, and who can be counted 
on in them— just as others will learn how much they can count on you. 

Although one of the rules of thumb for affinity groups is that they should not be so 
large as to need formal structures for discussions, larger meetings— between clusters 
of affinity groups, for example— may require them. Be warned: using such protocol 
unnecessarily will bog down discussions and alienate participants, and can even foster 
needless antagonism and drama. On the other hand, if an assembly shares good faith 
in a given approach and works out its details together, such structures can make group 
decision-making quicker, easier, and more responsive to the needs and interests of ev- 
eryone involved. No system is better than the people who participate in it; make sure in 
advance that everyone is comfortable with the format you use. 

In one common format, the discussion goes around a circle, each person taking a 
turn to speak. In another, suited better to larger gatherings, the group begins by agree- 
ing on a facilitator, an individual who will help keep the discussion constructive and on 
topic. Anotiier individual volunteers to "take stack," keeping track of the order in which 


Facilitating Discussions 

Affinity Croups 

Plan A is backed up by the rest 
of the alphabet. 

Affinity Croups 

people raise their hands to speak; if people feel it is important to make sure different 
demographics represented in the group get equal time speaking, this person can take a 
separate stack for each, and alternate between them. Next, individuals propose items for 
the agenda of the discussion, then come to consensus on an order for these items and, 
if time is pressing, a time limit for the discussion of each. During the discussion pro- 
cess, individuals can ask to respond directly to questions, so the group doesn't have to 
wait until the stack comes around to them to hear their responses. Individuals can also 
make comments on the process of the discussion, urging people to focus when they are 
getting distracted, or proposing a break so people can stretch their legs or discuss mat- 
ters in smaller groups. When it's time to make a decision on an issue, individuals make 
proposals, propose amendments, and then address concerns until the group reaches 
consensus or the closest thing to it. 

Antifascist Action 

It always starts the same way. Racist fliers or stickers show up on the walls of local hang- 
outs or are distributed to people's homes. Reports of attacks and acts of intimidation 
against people of color appear in the news. Rumors fly about Nazi boneheads hanging 
around local high schools. Queer-bashing incidents rise. Hip-hop kids, punks, and anti- 
racist skinheads report run-ins with Nazis on the street. Shady characters start pushing 
anti-immigration campaigns. A local controversy erupts over race issues, and Klan and 
Nazi groups plan a rally to escalate the tension. Soon it snowballs: white power groups 
organize concerts, racists run for office, boneheads crash shows, start fights, and attack 
left-wing political centers, exerting dominance over local youth and street scenes. Pres- 
sure mounts . . . time to fight back! 

Liberals and authorities will tell you that ignoring fascists will make them go away, or 
that the police vvdll handle them. Bullshit. Ignoring a problem does not make it go away, 
and as often as not police have ties to fascists or are at least willing to look the other 
way—they may even be glad to have fascists around to take care of radicals for them. But 
if the fascists are exposed and opposed with both ideas and fists, their organizing efforts 
can be seriously weakened, even defeated. 



Know Your Enemy 

*Throughout this article, the term 

"fascist" is generally used to refer 

to your standard white supremacist 

neo-Nazi types. In reality, fascism 

is a lot more connplicated. Though 

many definitions exist, the core of 

fascism lies in rigid authoritarianism, 

nationalism, glorification of violence, 

and the subservience of women. 

While our present government 

may appear to display these 

characteristics, a key distinction is 

the fascist emphasis on autonomous 

and popular action outside of the 

regulation of the State, usually 

with the intention of replacing the 

government. Emphasis on racial 

identity, supremacist beliefs, talk 

of mythical heritage, and a cult of 

personality are also common, but 

optional. There are many other 

types of fascists out there: Christian 

zealot clinic-bombers, Islamic 

fundamentalists, strict authoritarian 

Stalinists, even black nationalist 

separatists. Each group is unique and 

must be considered individually. 

Antifascist Action 

Some people think fascists are inconsequential fringe groups whose ideas nobody 
takes seriously anymore. Think again. Neo-fascist movements are off the respirators 
and breathing with renewed vigor, making a strong comeback around the world. In the 
past ten years alone they've made electoral gains and taken over the streets in some cit- 
ies (Europe), spurred ethnic cleansing {Eastern Europe), built up a million-dollar white 
power music and merchandising empire to fund their organizing (USA), and commit- 
ted various acts of terrorism (worldwide) — and that's not counting the local efforts, in- 
cluding small-scale organizing, propaganda blitzes, and physical assaults. 

There is a real movement of far right and neo-Nazi groups taking root." This move- 
ment is diverse, including contradictory and competing factions: legal vs. outlaw, mass 
organizing vs. leaderless cells, religious vs. secular, Christian vs. Satanist, white su- 
premacist vs. nationalist, suit vs. skinhead. Some are unorganized crews who just hang 
out and occasionally attack the most obvious and defenseless targets. Others are highly 
organized and serious about changing society, using either clandestine cells or front 
groups to achieve their goals. Some are open about their racist beliefs and call for ethnic 
strife, while others mask their motives behind "cultural heritage" and claim to be acting 
out of pride and love for "their people." Their support base includes politicians, cops, 
academics, military personnel — ^perhaps even your neighbors. Many of their supporters 
remain secret, preferring to remain unknown but providing information, money and 
other forms of aid, including guns and other weapons. 

Fascism, past and present, has an undisputable history of racist terror and murder. 
Treating fascists as a serious threat is not paranoid — it's commonsense self-defense. 
Even small fascist groups can be vocal enough to force their politics into the public 
dialogue, shifting public opinion and debate to the right. Once fascists start to get a 
grip in an area, they will raise the level of violence to drive their enemies (including 
anarchists) out. 

It's essential to challenge fascism by opposing our own liberating alternatives to it. 
Fascism appeals to people who are justifiably pissed ofFat our fucked up society; rather 
than taking on the complex roots of our society's problems— capitalism, patriarchy, hi- 
erarchy—they swallow the simplistic and scapegoating solutions that fascists offer. In 
a sense, anarchists and fascists are competing for the same constituency; both struggle 
to undermine the current social order, and propose ideas about how new communities 
should be forged. This suggests that fascism can only be defeated once and for all by 
successful anarchist organizing; we need to sway people by demonstrating the merits of 
mutual aid, non-hierarchical relationships, solidarity between cultures, and grassroots 
direct action. 

There are times, however, when words are not enough, and you must act or risk being 
silenced forever. 

Antifascist action is dangerous work. Not only do you have to deal with the usual police 
repression, you need to watch out for fascist attacks— on the street, at your home, and 
in your community. 

How do you and your friends do this.> Arm yourselves. Watch your backs. Train for 
self-defense. Plan for emergencies and set up a crisis alert network to summon your 
comrades. Establish bail and medical funds. Take this senously. Lives may depend on it. 

Basic security measures are a must. Don't use your real names when engaging in 
work like this. Keep your phone number unlisted. Use post office boxes. Be carefld 
about letting your personal information get out. Keep a low profile online. Use aliases, 
encryption, and throwaway email accounts. Check out the backgrounds of people who 
are interested in joining your group. Arrange to have security present whenever you 
have public meetings or events. Know what your response will be if fascists show up or 
if they attack. 


Antifascist Aaion 

Militant antifascism means occasionally engaging in quasi-militaristic activities. If 
you're not prepared to think that way, you may want to choose another project. Some- 
times you'll have no choice but to deal vrith the fascists. This doesn't mean violence is 
always the answer, nor that we should adopt a gang mentality of us against them. Real- 
istically, however, martial preparation is necessary for this type of activity. 


Antifascist Action 

Fascism's popularity varies depending on location and political climate. At the risk of 
over-generalizing, it can be said that fascists are generally in a situation in which they 
know they are unpopular, so they try to keep their activities on the down-low. Just be- 
cause you don't have Nazis marching down your street vvdth swastika flags doesn't mean 
you don't have a fascist infestation in your city. They're out there, anonymously leaflet- 
ing, throwing up fascist graffiti, running mailorder distributions, recruiting one-on-one, 
infiltrating other groups, laying plans. 

Keep records. Whenever fascists are in the news, collect as much information as pos- 
sible. Look up names, phone numbers, and addresses. Use reverse directories and on- 
line search engines. If Nazis get busted, obtain the public copies of their arrest reports. 
Monitor their websites and message boards. Create fake email accounts, so as to pose as 
fellow Nazis and interact with them online. Subscribe to their magazines. Note rumors 
about where they hang out; go there and check them out. When they hold events, call 
them up and get the inside scoop. Monitor these events. Get license plates and vehicle 
models. Take close-up pictures, link names to faces. Send infiltrators to their meetings. 
If you spot a Nazi on the street, follow him — sometimes it's better to collect information 
than to take immediate action. Share information with other trusted antifascists. Find 
out where fascists work, live, go to school. Note their relationships — who hangs with 
who, who takes leadership roles, who's likely to be a police informant, who's likely to 
bust out a gun and start shooting. Gather as much intelligence on them as possible. 

Set up an info-line so that people can call, mail, or email in information on fascists 
and their activities. Post stickers or fliers about the line in areas where Nazis hang out, 
along with "unwanted" posters featuring photographs of the actual Nazis. You'll be sur- 
prised at the response, but don't trust everything sent in— verify all information first. 
This outreach might also put you in touch with folks who live near fascists, and with 
other potential allies. 

Antifascist work is not something to charge into carelessly. If you don't have a plan, 
somebody is likely to get hurt. 

Start by assessing your local situation and figuring out what you want to accom- 
plish. Develop a blueprint. There are many factors you need to keep in mind too 

many to hst here. Your local situation is unique, and your plans will need to reflect 
this. Does the situation call for an organized community response, such as expos- 
ing a fascist running for office, or in office.? Or does it make sense to have a tight- 
knit affinity group carry out its own plans, such as permanently shutting down a 
Nazi maflorder business with an unannounced /tre sale.? Try to put yourselves in the 
fascists' shoes and imagine what would hurt them most. Also, consider the conse- 
quences of your actions. Will they prompt an outraged fascist counterattack? Are you 
prepared to fight back.? 

It will help to look at existing antifascist organizing models and see how others have 
carried out this work. Groups like Anti-Racist Action (US and Canada), Antifascist Ac- 
tion (UK), and the German Antifa movement have employed a vride variety of tactics 
and learned many lessons. These models will not work in every situation, but they may 
provide some ideas. 

One word of warning: be careful of who you work with. Many "antifascist" groups out 
there have extremely sketchy politics and are no more your allies than the fascists are. 


Antifascist Action 

The Jewish Defense League, for example, is virulently Zionist, as is the Anti-Defamation 
League, who have also been known to collect intelligence on radicals and sell it to police 
and Israeli spies. Both the A.D.L. and the Southern Poverty Law Center go out of their 
way to convince people to ignore fascist activity and have denounced radical antifascists 
in the press as violent and worse than the Nazis, and the various communist antifascist 
front groups have unsavory agendas of their own. 


Antifascist Action 

The choice is yours whether to take public community action or clandestine direct ac- 
tion. Tips for both can be found elsewhere in this volume, but there is one aspect of 
antifascist action that must be covered here: direct confrontation. 

Wherever fascists go, they should be confronted. Pick your battles: don't start a 
confrontation that is unnecessarily dangerous (say, in which the Nazis have guns at 
hand), that you will lose (in which you are outnumbered or less willing to fight), or that 
is better avoided (in which you would suffer serious arrests, or miss the opportunity 
to score some crucial intelligence by just watching instead). Most confrontations will 
start off verbally, but can easily escalate to something more physical. Keep the upper 
hand and set the tone of the confrontation. Have a plan, stay cool, and don't let them 
off the hook! Confrontation is a psychological battle: you want to intimidate, humili- 
ate, and make them uncomfortable, while simultaneously raising confidence among 
antifascists. A verbal rout can be just as demoralizing to fascists as a physical beat- 
down — ^both have their place. 

On the other hand, don't make a spectacle of yourself for its own sake. If you start 
something that you can't finish, people will not take you seriously. Don't be afraid to 
back down if safety calls for it. 

Sometimes fascists may bring the confrontation to you. Winning fights isn't always 
about being the biggest bruisers or having the most numbers, it's about having the will 

to win (sounds like fascist propaganda, but it has an element of truth). Likewise, losing 
a battle doesn't always mean losing the war. You might not come out on top, but the way 
you fight can gain you respect and support. 

If you're expecting a physical confrontation, be sure everyone is prepared for it Keep 
tight and watch each other's backs. If you can get away with it, carry weapons or if 
there's a chance you might get searched by police, carry items that can be used as weap- 
ons m a pmch— hefty flagpoles, thick placard sticks, batteries, Mag-Lites, bike locks 
Have medics on hand, and know where the nearest hospitals are. If anyone gets hurt 
use a cover story at the hospital to avoid police investigation. Know what everyone's 
hmitations are, and have a plan to hit hard and get out fast. Be bold, and if you see an 
opportunity, take it! And don't forget your masks-see Blocs, Black and Otherwise (pg 
127) for mformation about how to act with the benefit of shared anonymity. 

The mainstream media is never going to be friendly toward militant antifascists. At best. Antifascists and 
youll be viev^ed as violent vigilantes, or just an opposing gang. Liberal groups will do the Corporate Media 
their best to denounce your tactics. 

Tliis doesn't necessarily mean you should avoid the mainstream media. The militant 
antifascist perspective should be articulated as widely as possible. Pick articulate spokes- 
people to speak for your group, but be carefiil that they protect their identifies. Fascists 
and police watch the news, too. Use fake names and wear masks. 

Be aware that media will often go out of their way to interview fascists, providing 
them with opportunities to spread their ideology. Interfere with this whenever possible 
If you get the opportunity to interrupt such an interview, be disruptive and make sure 
your counterpoints are delivered. 

Antifascist Action 

Scenario #7; Following Up on 
Fascist Actii^ity in the News 

Antifascist Action 

Vandalism on a synagogue or mosque. An attack on a mixed-race couple. Racist leaflets 
dropped on hundreds of lawns overnight. A cross burned outside of a black family's 
home. Perhaps you've heard something like this in the news recently. 

First, collect as much information from the source as possible. Get the date, time, 
location, and names of people involved or arrested. 

Second, check similar sources. Look in other newspapers — especially the police blot- 
ters of smaller, local, weekly papers. Watch the news. Dig around online. 

Next, get in the car and go check out the area of the incident. Look for signs of other 
fascist activity — graffiti, bumper stickers, nationalist flags. Note any places that fascists 
might hang out nearby— bars, parks, pool halls, etc. Talk to people in the area, particu- 
larly convenience store clerks and kids. Ask about skinheads or incidents involving race. 
Be prepared in case you run into some Nazis on the street. 

If you have the address of a fascist involved in the incident, check it out, same as 
above. Hang around the area. If it's at night, you have the time, and you won't look 
suspicious, sit in your car and watch the address to see who comes in and out. Follow 
anyone who looks suspect. If you get the chance, take their trash and examine it else- 
where. You may score all sorts of personal information on the Nazi, or possibly even 
some fascist literature or correspondence. 

If you have a phone number, caU and pretend to be a reporter — but be careful where 
you're calling from, as it can be traced back. Ask about the incident, others involved, any 
groups the person works with, and so on. Pump them as much as you can. Alternatively, 
call and pretend to be from a large fascist group like the National AlHance. Say that you 
heard about the incident and wanted to see if they needed any kind of support. Try to get 
the names and information of other fascists. See Injiltration (pg. 306) for more informa- 
tion about such tactics. 

If a fasast was arrested, find out about the hearing and attend it. Take careful note of 
fascist supporters that show up; try to foUow them when they leave. If you're a known or 
recognizable antifascist, you'll risk getting harassed or jumped out on the street so be 
careful. Don't go alone. Tone down your look, or roll in as a large and visible antifascist 
presence, let them know you're watching, and do your best to intimidate them 

Another approach, though a trickier one, is to caU up the victims of the incident This 
needs to be handled with extreme tact Say, "Hello, my name is (alias) and I work with an 
antiracist youth organization called Anti-Racist Action (or whatever your group is caUed) 
and we heard about what happened. We do research and education to expose racism and 
racist violence. Could we ask you some questions about the incident.?" Again be carefiil 
the phone number from which you call can't be traced to you. The person may be up for 
talking, or he or she may be freaked out If they don't want to talk, apologize, thank them 
for their time, and hang up. 

If the incident is part of a rash of fascist activity, then you may want to organize some 
sort of public community response (see Scenario #3). If nothing else, you now have in- 
formation about the people behind the fascist threat in your area, and you can make an 
mformed decision about how to respond to their efforts. You may also want to pass the 
mtelligence you have gathered on to a national antifascist organization. 

You've heard rumors that Nazi boneheads are hanging around a local high school Is 
this just a case of someone wearing offensive and reactionary patches, or is there some- 
thing deeper happening? Better find out 

First approach any contacts you have at the school: friends, younger relatives a sym- 
pathetic teacher. Ask them what they know Second, go to the school and hand out anti- 
racist fliers, stickers, and other cool free stuff. Make it known to the local kids that you 
are part of an antifascist group and you're following up on reports of local Nazi activity. 

Scenario #2; Responding to 
Bonehead Crews Hanging Out 
Around tine High School 

Antifascist Action 

Scenario #3; Outing a Fascist 

Antifascist Action 

Some cool kids will be more than willing to dish up some information, and may either 
want to work with you on "outing" the fascists or already have some plan in motion with 
which you can link your own efforts. If possible, encourage them to start up an antiracist 
group at their school. 

Your goal is to find out who the fascist kids are, where they hang out, and if they're 
connected to any organized fascist groups. Sometimes you'll be dealing with mis- 
guided kids who just think the Nazi skinhead trend is cool, and can easily be per- 
suaded otherwise. Sometimes you'll find that one or more of the kids (or maybe an 
older brother or friend) is linked to an organized group. You need to get to these 
kids quick— or, preferably, the ones organizing them from above— before more young 
people are pulled in. 

You'll be taking several risks by going to the school. You may run into Nazis, so be 
prepared for a confrontation. You may also run afoul of school administration or secu- 
rity. You may be cited laws and threatened with arrest for trespassing on school grounds 
and handing out fliers. If you handle this defi:ly, it can work in your favor: a conti-oversy 
over handing out anti-Nazi information will get attention. It may be easiest to simply go 
to other places the kids hang out near the school, where you won't be harassed. You may 
even find some kids willing to pass things out inside the school for you. 

You've gotten an active fascist's name and home address. Aside from some nighttime 
fiin, what do you do with this info? Easy! "Out" the Nazi to his neighbors. This is espe- 
cially effective if the fascist is trying to keep his activities secret. 

First, confirm that all the information you have is correct. Make sure the Nazi actually 
lives there, and that he's actually the person you think he is. 

Make up a flier wdth the fascist's picture, name, home address and phone number, 
and all of the information you have on his fascist and personal activities. On the back. 

put together some information on why fighting fascism is important, including practi- 
cal suggestions for things that people can do to counter the fascists' efforts or otherwise 
get more involved. 

Post this flier everywhere, particularly where the fascist lives, works, hangs out, shops, 
goes to school. Then gather a bunch of people and go door to door in his neighborhood! 
Talk to his neighbors about who the guy is and why he needs to be confronted. Encour- 
age them to organize their own neighborhood against him. This puts pressure on the 
fascist and exposes him to the surrounding community. This kind of public notification 
can lead to spontaneous and interesting community action against him. Lots of people 
hate Nazis and racists, and if given the chance wiU serve street-level justice to them. 

This canvassing needs to be handled carefUHy Look at the class, cultural, and ethnic 
makeup of the community to gauge the response you wiU get. Travel in groups, and 
have some people keep an eye out for trouble while the others hand out fliers and do the 
talking. Your target may spot you or hear about what you're doing and call in his pals 
for backup. You might also run across neighbors who are friends of your target, who 
are possibly even fascists themselves. Other residents may simply be annoyed at being 
disturbed, accuse you of being vigilantes, or even call the police on you. A confrontation 
may occur in which violence or arrest is a possibility, so be prepared. 

All this risk can be worth it, however. You can make a positive impact and develop 
new relationships with neighbors, area residents, and youth. Some will appreciate your 
efforts and ask how they can help— be prepared to give practical advice. They may even 
offer you information about the Nazi's activities. These personal contacts can be very 
useful later on. 

As a final stroke, you may wish to hold a demonstration and march it directly to the 
front door to confront the fascist at his house. The idea here is to intimidate him and 
let him know you're prepared to bring the battle directly to his doorstep. Encourage Ts ^'*'"" 

the neighbors to join you. If the Nazi fails to come out, leave him some messages he 
won't forget. The likelihood of violence or arrest is much higher in this situation, so 
be prepared. 

Scenario #4: Shutting 

Down a Fascist Rally, 

Meeting, or Concert 

Antifascist Action 

Many fascist groups, such as the KKK, like to hold public rallies to gain attention. Oth- 
ers, like the National Alliance, hold secret organizing meetings to train their cadre. 
White power concerts serve to draw in youth. All deserve to be shut dovm. 

Start by collecting information on who is planning the event. What is their history, 
where are they from, and who are their local contacts? This will give you some back- 
ground on the fascists for propaganda purposes, and will help you to identify what and 
whom to target. Fascist groups often have a local member who invites the group to town, 
hoping to draw more recruits. The local is probably the one who reserved the event 
space. When fascists arrive from out of town, they are likely to visit this person's home. 
This is a perfect opportunity for surveillance and intelligence gathering, or to expose 
them early on and disrupt their plans beforehand. 

Step i: Call a meeting. Invite groups and individuals you think would be willing to 
cooperate on a tactical level, even if you have political differences. Be firm that the pur- 
pose of this organizing is to shut the event down, not just to protest or raise awareness. 
Make it a point of principle that the coalition will not work with the police, that it vrill 
support a diversity of tactics, and that it will organize on a grassroots, horizontal level. 
Develop a spokescouncil (see Affinity Groups, pg. 28) and get representatives from in- 
volved groups to take on roles. Get commitments from people. If others have already 
initiated an organizing meeting, figure out if it is worth attending. If it is, raise the same 
issue of direct democracy and the goal of shutting the event down. Unfortunately, there 
may be some liberals who wUl be outraged by your suggestions and will try to isolate 
you. Some people may not want to engage in confrontation, so space should be provided 

for them to participate safely— support roles are just as crucial as action roles, after all. 
Make your points and try to win people to your perspective, but be careful not to say 
anything potentially incriminating. Liberals have a long and sordid history of acting as 
police informants when they are confronted with more radical organizing attempts. 

Step 2: Get the word out. Leaflets, stickers, spray paint, stencils, the internet, what- 
ever it takes. If your area is multilingual, try to get your stuff translated. It makes a big 
difference to break down the language barriers and avoid the assumption that everyone 
speaks American English. This has the benefit of attracting people from different scenes 
to the organizing— both of this counter-event and of long-term antifascist actions. 

Your main goal at this stage is to get the fascist event cancelled in advance. Some- 
times simple exposure will do the job. Many businesses do not want to be associated 
with fascists and will nix an event once it is publicized that they are hosting them; in 
many cases, they wiU not reaUze whom they are dealing with until they are informed, as 
fascists often conceal the true nature of their groups and intentions. Others will initially 
defend the event on misguided "free speech" grounds, but will cave in to public pressure 
if you organize a call-in campaign. 

In some circumstances, you may want to avoid public organizing. A call to action is 
likely to get media attention, and the police will certainly take notice. This guarantees that 
the fascists will have a state-sponsored security force for the event, decreasing your chanc- 
es of direct confi-ontation. You may not want them to know you're coming. In this case, 
organize by word-of-mouth among select antifascist groups, and catch them by surprise! ' 

It's very rare for the fascists to hold any sort of pubHc raUy without massive police pro- Public Rallies 

tection defendmg their "free speech" while silencing ours. This may include massive 

numbers of not cops— sometimes hidden out of sight nearby until needed— armed with 

tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, and flash grenades, not to mention helicopters T'^"'""' """""" 

snipers, command centers, dogs, horses, and tank-like vehicles. The fascists will often 
be defended behind fences, with supporters and opposition herded into caged-in protest 
pens. The main fascists will be escorted in and out by the pohce, often in police vehicles. 

This doesn't mean there's no chance to get at them or shut the event down. First, try to 
find out where the fascists are meeting up beforehand. This may be a local's house, the 
fast food joint next to the cop station, or a gas station off the highway. If you gather enough 
people, you may be able to surprise them there. Second, fascist supporters may show 
up without the benefit of a police escort. Have teams of scouts ready to ferret out these 
fascists, so you can confront them and give them a reason to leave. Third, encourage the 
crowd to mobilize to prevent the cop-escorted fascists from getting in or out. If ihe fascists 
plan to march, try to block the route. You can also send infiltrators into the supporters' 
area, or rain projectiles on the fascists' parade. If aU else fails, you can still try to drown the 
fascists out with your own noise, and have some rousing good fian in the process. 

Remember, fascist rallies are recruitment and publicity opportunities. Take advantage 
of the situation and make it publicity for antifascist action! 

Meetings Some meetings will draw fascists in from out of town. Check out the parking lots of 
local hotels, looking for fascist bumper stickers or other telltale signs. If you know the 
names of any attendees, call around to hotels and see if they've checked in. Consider 
paying them a surprise visit. 

Since they're not public events, fascist meetings usually lack the poHce presence that 
accompanies most rallies. This gives you a lot more leeway for confronting the fas- 
cists — especially if they don't know you're coming. If possible, march your group right 
into their event for maximum disruption. A few noisemakers and kicked-over tables vidll 

add to the chaos. The police might eventually force you out, but you can still be rowdy 
Antifascist Action i i i i i 

4g from outside, and make the Nazis run when they leave. 

After having many shows shut down, fascists have learned their lessons. Most white Concerts 

power concerts are held in venues that are sympathetic. This includes fascist-owned 

bars, Outlaw motorcycle gang halls, and private property in rural areas. These places 

won't cave in to public pressure to shut the show down— but they are vulnerable to 

nighttime activities (see Utilities, pg. 585). Occasionally, fascists will misrepresent the 

show and book it at a regular club, in which case you have a chance of getting the owner 

to cancel. Some owners are just greedy, however, in which case you'll have to turn up 

the heat. Even if you do force a venue to cancel, they'll scramble to find another on short 

notice, so keep the pressure on. 

Fascists often keep the show location secret, requiring attendees to visit a check-in 
point (or series of such points) where fascists will meet them in person, check them 
out, and give them directions. If you know of a check-in point, get a large number of 
people together and occupy it in advance. If it's in a park, for example, organize an 
antifascist softball game and bring plenty of extra bats. If you scare off the organizers, 
you'll be able to meet and greet the fascists who show up and send them on their way 
back out of town. The organizers are likely to have publicized a backup cell phone num- 
ber, so have some friends keep that number busy all night— heck, program a computer 
modem to repeat-dial it, using Caller ID-blocking of course. If you have a fake fascist 
persona crafted, or you want to pose as a reporter, you can also use that number to 
gather intelligence. 

If the show goes on, try to organize an action at the show itself. In some areas, this 
may simply be too dangerous, especially as you can expect dozens or even hundreds 
of Nazis to show up. In other areas, you might have more success and support. And 
remember— all those fascists have to park their cars somewhere. 

Antifascist Action 

Other Applications 

Many of these tactics are also useful for investigating and confronting other odious or- 
ganizations, such as corporations that abuse animals or engage in genetic engineering. 


Antifascist Action 

We learned that the National Socialist Movement and the Ku Klux Klan were to hold a 
"white unity" rally at the state capital in few weeks. A planning group formed, which held 
a series of covert meetings in the days leading up to the fascist rally. Our group included 
people of a variety of ethnic groups, genders, sexual orientations, and body types; also, 
just as importantly, it consisted of a range of participants from longtime militant activists 
to people who didn't consider themselves political at aR. Sometimes, in their efforts to 
avoid alienating people, activists alienate everyone not famihar with activist protocol and 
procedure. We did our best to avoid this: our discussions were informal, we had no mem- 
bership list, no one needed any prior knowledge of activist culture to feel welcome. 

We decided we were going to do our best to prevent the rally from happening at all, or, 
failing that, to make it as trying as possible for the fascists and the city that was hosting 
them. But why, you ask — don't the fascists have the right to free speech, just like every- 
body else? And doesn't confronting them just make their position look more attractive? 
Before we proceed with the account, let's go over these questions. 

First of all, for an anarchist like me, the question of "the right to free speech" is a moot 
point. If you don't believe that any governing power should be able to grant or take away 
our "rights," but instead hold that social life has to be cooperatively determined by those 
in the thick of it, the question is not whether someone has the "right" to do something, 
but whether or not what they're doing is a good, socially responsible thing. The govern- 
ment might grant a corporation the "right" to destroy a forest or evict people from their 
homes, but that wouldn't make it right for us to stand idly by while they did so. The idea 
that any government can dole out rights impartially is a fallacy, anyway; since those in 
power inevitably use that power to represent their own interests, we might as well use 

whatever power we have to represent ours. Besides, the moment the Nazis and the Klan 
have the chance, they'll be thrilled to prevent people like you and me from exercising 
any so-called rights at all. Protecting their right to organize toward depriving others of 
rights, on the grounds that it's necessary to maintain the system of rights, is naive at 
best, if not outright duplicitous. 

As for the "just ignore them and they'll go away" school of thought, that didn't 
work in Italy, Germany, or Spain a few generations back, and it hasn't worked lately in 
Europe either, where a powerful new fascist movement has been gaining a foothold. 
These fascist groups, once allowed to recruit members and get active, quickly begin 
targeting immigrants, radicals, and others with violence; the only solution that has 
worked is for activists to block their attempts to organize from the very beginning. In 
fact, scarcely two and a half decades earlier, a similar rally held by the same organiza- 
tions in a city only an hour away from this one had ended in the murders of antifascist 
protesters, for which the police never found anyone guilty even though it was obvious 
who had committed them. Our reluctance to let this rally go unchallenged did not pro- 
ceed from idle concerns. 

Aside from the fascists themselves, we also had a bone to pick with the city. If they had 
not offered police protection, the fascists surely would not have dared show up to preach 
their hate and violence, for fear of a taste of their own medicine. As it turned out, the city 
must have spent tens of thousands of dollars, if not more, to make this rally possible. 
I know from plenty of experience at demonstrations that cities usually only spend that 
kind of money to prevent free speech. Having had some of my own attempts to exercise 
my "right to free speech" end in tear gas and rubber bullet attacks {which are not cheap!), 
I found it particularly insulting that the government saw fit to allocate so much taxpayer 
money to enable the fascists to recruit right on their front lawn. Couldn't that money have 
been better spent on education programs or social security, if it had to be spent at all? ^>^iip^"^^ 

what could be in it for them? CoiJild it be that the conservatives in power were glad 
to offer the public the spectacle of these extreme groups, in comparison with whom 
they would appear moderate? Regardless, we decided it would be our job to make sure 
they had to work to earn every dollar they spent on security, and to cost them more than 
they'd bargained for if possible. This would discourage them from providing protection 
for future fascist rallies: if they knew the price tag would be even steeper than it had 
been this time, they might just tell the Klan and Nazis they'd have to go it alone, which 
would be fair enough. It would also highlight the willingness of the city to go to such 
great lengths to protect the fascists, which itself deserved public scrutiny. And in the 
course of our own efforts, we hoped to open a space for others to protest the rally as well, 
in whatever ways they saw fit. 

When you engage in confrontational action, there's always the possibility you will 
step on a few toes in the process. There's a certain kind of activist organizer who gets 
really offended if everyone doesn't follow the guidelines his group has unilaterally set; 
in addition to that, though I'm not one to believe in the myth that the masses are so 
"moderate" that any kind of militant action alienates them, it can in fact happen that 
people are intimidated by a masked group whose goals and tactics aren't clear to them. 
We discussed the fact that we would be running this risk, and decided that in this case 
it was worth it: our first priority was not to convert people to our perspective, but to stop 
the fascists from getting a foothold for theirs. If we did make a bad impression on any 
other protesters, that wasn't going to turn them into fascists; and if everyone associated 
fascists with chaos and trouble, so much the better, I can imagine the Nazi "Command- 
er" in city hall trying to get a permit next time, and the functionary explaining: "No, last 
time y'all came here you brought your friends the anarchists, and it was a big mess." 
Antifascist Action Finally, apart from discouraging the fascists and unmasking the city's allegiances, 

52 this was a great opportunity for us proponents of direct action to put our experience at 

the service of other rightfUUy angry people, and get to know each other better in the bar- 
gain. As it turned out, by the time the event was over we'd made a lot more new friends 
than the Klan or the N.S.M. had. 

Publicly, we took advantage of shows and other social events to announce that coun- 
ter-rally actions of some kind would take place, and used the lists we gathered at these 
events to send out reminders; we also wheatpasted fliers and posted notices on the inter- 
net to the same effect. Privately, we worked on strategy and structure. Those of us whose 
friends had been involved in some of the better-known antifascist actions of the preced- 
ing years contacted them and asked for pointers. Some of us explored the area and made 
annotated maps, which were distributed at meetings. We gathered what materials we 
could, and brainstormed about what approaches to take. We did our best to spread word 
of our plans to everyone who might want to participate, addmg specifics according to the 
degree to which we felt we could trust them, so as to prevent information from fallmg 
into the wrong hands. 

Shortly thereafter, we learned that a permitted protest had also been scheduled. Some 
of us had mixed feeHngs about this. It meant, on the one hand, that there would be a 
safe zone for protesters who didn't want to risk police repression; on the other hand, in 
our experience in this city, whenever a permitted protest occurred it was some distance 
from the event being protested, surrounded by a thick line of police and metal fenc- 
ing, and proved to be a disempowering experience for all who participated in it. As all 
areas except the permitted zone would be locked down by police, it was likely that the 
permitted protest would absorb all who showed up and the tone of the day would thus 
be set by the few who had organized it— which would mean all the energy we had put 
into our organizing was absorbed by their project, an outcome that would disappoint 
those who had accepted our invitation to the event in hopes of effectively contesting the 
fascist rally To top it all off, organizers of permitted protests sometimes take offense to 

Antifascist Action 

Antifascist Action 

any other form of protest organized to take place alongside their own, so we had to be 
careful not to create discord simply by virtue of acting on our own initiative. 

We concluded that we had to find a point at which to confront the fascists ^at was far 
from the permitted protest, both for civility's sake and to make sure no one was at risk 
who did not choose to be. Fortunately, our research had revealed that they woiold be us- 
ing a parking lot on the opposite side of the rally site from the permitted zone. Those of 
us who were prepared for potentially dangerous physical confrontation planned to form 
a group that would advance on the parking lot. There were residential neighborhoods 
nearby, which we hoped would be far enough outside the zone of police surveillance that 
we could gather there and approach with the element of surprise. Once in melee with 
the police and perhaps the fascists, this group would stick tightly together, and do every- 
thing possible to thwart arrests. As the police had no knowledge of our plans, we didn't 
expect they would be prepared to make mass arrests, so we figured our primary problem 
was to stop them from picking off individuals. If we were beset by serious pofice attacks, 
we would retreat into the residential neighborhood, maintaining our coherence on the 
way, and then disperse there where the greatest number of us would be able to escape. 
If all else failed, we decided we would break up into our affinity groups and act individu- 
ally to cause disruptions. If we could create an unstable enough situation by any of these 
means, we expected the rally would be delayed or canceled. 

A strategy alone is never enough. As things never go as expected, it is critical to have 
a structure that can remain useful when circumstances change. We divided into affinity 
groups, and buddied up inside of those; also, several individuals who were hoping to 
be noncombatants formed a communications team. Each of them was equipped with a 
cell phone or two-way radio, and chose an area to patrol or a task to fulfill — taking down 
license plate numbers from the fascists' cars, for example, or keeping abreast of areas 
free of police surveillance to which people could retreat if need be. They arranged an in- 

temal network so that information could be circulated as swiftly as possible and passed 
on to one of two contacts in the action-oriented group. During the event, they not only 
monitored the movements of fascists and police, but also distributed information to all 
of us when we were spread out. 

The night before the rally, some brave souls went out with spray paint, dressed as 
civilians. This was a role that could be played by those of us who felt more comfortable 
acting alone than in the chaos of a big demonstration, and an important one. By morn- 
ing, the political district of the city, especially the aforementioned parking lot and the 
actual site of the rally, was covered thickly in antifascist graffiti. No matter that the city, 
clearly hell-bent on their chosen project of being welcoming hosts to the fascists, went 
to the surprising trouble of sandblasting all the graffiti off by the time the rally was to 
begin; they were our primary target readership, and now they have one more serious 
expense to factor into their budget next time they consider welcoming fascists. 

Just before dawn, others went to a hiding place that had been scouted earlier and 
stashed our secret weapons: several 4' by 8' plywood banners painted with antifas- 
cist slogans. These had handholds cut into them {though after one of us had his hand 
smashed by a police baton while holding one up, we decided back handles would have 
been better), and could be tied together at the ends to form a massive, jointed, mobile 
barricade. Carrying these around our group would make it difficult for police to snatch 
or beat us, or for that matter easily identify us or gauge our numbers. They were also 
festive, and made our goals clear. In the future, well probably use plexiglass instead of 
plywood, since one of them finally snapped in half after too much pressure from police 
on one side and protesters on ffie other— but we'll get to that story shortly. 

We held a final meeting the morning of the big day to fill in those who hadn't been 
present at eariier ones and make some last-minute decisions. We picked a convergence 
point out in ffie residential neighborhood, and a time we hoped would be just long ^^''f""'"'* ^'"'" 

enough before the fascists would cross from the parking lot to the rally site that we 
could stop them, but not so far in advance that the police could force us to disperse 
first, or that too few potential participants in our action would have arrived (since, un- 
fortunately, those promoting the permitted event had announced the protest as starting 
at the same time as the rally, which would be too late to interfere wdth it). Until that 
moment, we would be scattered into couples and tiny groups, in hopes of avoiding 
premature police attention. Our scouts would inform those of us with communications 
equipment if anything unexpected developed — say, the fascists were heading to the 
rally site earlier than expected, or there was already a police presence at the site of our 
planned convergence — and these spokespeople would pass word around to others, so 
we could react quickly. 

We arrived a couple of hours before the rally was to begin to find the entire area 
swarming v^dth police in and out of uniform, massive metal fencing surrounding the 
rally site, surveillance cameras set up, snipers on the rooftops, mobile command cen- 
ters down the block, several officers on horseback and more in riot gear, and even a 
helicopter overhead. It was intimidating, and there was litde sign of other protesters. 
Our scouts reported that fascists had already arrived, and were fraternizing with police 
officers in a couple of areas; however, there didn't seem to be much chance of catching 
them alone, so we stuck with plan A. 

We were all dressed as nondescript civilians, but carried bandannas and sweatshirts 
wdth which to render ourselves anonymous. Walking around the vicinity, we met people 
we recognized from other demonstrations and shows, and passed on to those we trusted 
the time and location of our convergence point — and maps, for those who had come 
from out of town. When the time came, we all made our way to the designated area, 
A ff ' tArf doing our best to appear to be nothing more than small groups moving randomly, and 

56 hoping not to hear the familiar thunder of helicopters overhead. 

The moment was upon us— we pulled up our masks, grabbed the banners from their 
hiding place, and tied them together as we formed our bloc and made swiftly for the 
parking lot. There were perhaps forty of us, and we were going to take on at least one 
hundred and fifty police, not to mention the thirty-odd fascists that had occasioned all 
this trouble. One of us had a great bass drum with which to maintain morale— morale is 
critical in such situations, it makes all the difference in what a group feels capable of do- 
ing. Others had emergency whistles, which make a loud noise while leaving the hands 
free (though you should be carefid not to damage your hearing with them, if playing for 
a long time). Later in the day, the drums turned out to be extremely useful for centering 
our group when it was spread out, and directing motion en masse. More drums and 
drummers might have been even more effective at these purposes, and at least would 
have saved our drummer the welts sustained from having to play constantly. 

In a couple of minutes we were across the street from the parking lot, jogging with 
our banners around us. At this instant, remarkably, we had the element of surprise on 
our side. Since neither the police nor the fascists were expecting us, we were throwing 
them into an unexpected situation and thus off-balance; the initiative was ours. For the 
rest of the day, we were not able to recapture this advantage; much of what we accom- 
plished proceeded from the moment when we had it. Arguably, the mistake we made 
at this juncture was not to cross the street to the parking lot before the police reached 
us. In discussions after the action, it came out that those who had thought to shout out 
that it was time to move across the street held back for fear that there might be under- 
cover police among us who would identify them as leaders. In retrospect, we probably 
had enough coherence as a group that we could have prevented police from snatching 
supposed leaders; but the real solution to such a problem is to have the feeling of en- 
titlement to make recommendations more evenly distributed among participants. This 
happened as the day wore on and all of us developed more confidence; unfortunately. 

You can pose as an injured or 
handicapped person in order to get 
crutches through police checkpoints 
to be used as weapons later: imagine 
the bad press authorities would risk 
by attempting to confiscate them! 

Antifascist Action 

police preparations increased at the same pace our morale did. Strike all at once and go 
for it while you have the chance, that's the moral of the story. 

Be that as it may, in the next instant a line of poHce charged forward and met us in 
the middle of the street as we headed for the parking lot. A struggle followed, with them 
pushing on the banners from one side, and us from the other. A couple of us were struck 
or dragged by the hair at this point; it's worth pointing out, though this is no surprise, 
that the police were in fact the ones who initiated violence that day. All those they tried to 
grab for arrests were pulled back by friends. Partly owing to the general lack of experience 
in our numbers, at this point we had not yet developed a strong sense of what we could 
accomplish, so many were not as ready to push the limits as they would be later after 
they'd gotten accustomed to the situation. Consequently, we were pushed back across the 
street; but we held our ground there, seizing the comer of the intersection between the 
parking lot and the rally site and holding it in the face of further police pressure. 

A standoff ensued. We stood on the comer, banners up on the outside, with a line of 
police in front of us and more police massing behind them. The fascists in the parking 
lot were hiding behind a dumpster, totally out of view and out of range of projectiles. Over 
the next few minutes, our numbers swiftly swelled, as protesters from a variety of per- 
spectives and walks of life came to join us. In fact, in taking this comer, we had opened 
up a vast space around the rally site for those protesters who didn't want to remain in the 
permitted zone, and scores rapidly filled it. This was definitely one of our accomplish- 
ments for the day, that we made it possible for protesters to move around the area at will, 
exercising their freedom of speech beyond the restrictions of the police cordon. 

We had failed to meet the fascists in actual conflict, but now, having demonstrated 

our readiness for confrontation, we were between them and their rally site, and it was 

A t'f ' tAi' clear to everyone that there would be trouble if they came within range. They remained 

5S hidden behind their dumpster, with police around them for protection, and other police 

conferred on how to handle the situation, while still others reinforced the line facing us. 
This went on for perhaps fifteen minutes, until it was time for their rally to begin. It con- 
tinued for another fifteen minutes, and then another, and then another, until we had suc- 
ceeded in delaying their rally by a full forty-five minutes— no small achievement, under 
the circumstances! By this time, our group was dispersed within the much larger group 
of protesters that had gathered at the comer, most dearly understanding that they were 
delaying the rally by amassing there. Many were shouting fhriously at the police for being 
willing to defend such opponents of Hberty. The atmosphere was heated, to say the least. 

In acting as a small, self-starting group, we had opened up the option of militant 
resistance to many others, who joined in enthusiastically; but the downside to this was 
that our group lost coherence within the larger mass. Our banners and banner holders 
had been separated from one another in the chaos, and we never again that day formed 
a tight nucleus. A city bus protected by police finally showed up to collect the cowering 
fascists, and drove off in the opposite direction with them inside. We received reports 
from our scouts that it was headed to the opposite side of the rally site, on the far side 
of the permitted zone from where we were; we tried to move toward it, but moving in 
an even minimally organized manner through the assembled masses around the nar- 
row perimeter of the rally site proved impossible. We didn't want to move through the 
permitted zone itself, anyway, so as not to draw heat to those seeking safety there or in- 
terfere with their chosen foim of protest. This was the point at which individual actions 
by scattered groups could have taken place to heighten the atmosphere of uncertainty; 
whether any did is unknown, but certainly not enough did. Best-case scenario, we would 
have had others ready to intercept the bus, but we had not prepared enough for that. 

Surrounded by police, with us still hundreds of feet away, the fascists were able to 
leave the bus without being assaulted by anything more than the jeers of bystanders. 
Realizing that we had at last failed to prevent them from reaching the site, we changed 

Antifascist Action 

our strategy: at this point our only hope of stopping the rally was to create chaos that 

seemed uncontrollable, so we attempted a full frontal offensive. The police barring our 

path had been replaced by now with officers in full body armor, and officers with tear 

gas rifles and on horseback stood behind them. The great metal fence was between 

us and them; it was composed of massively heavy sections, almost inextricably linked 

together. Amazingly, we were able to get one of the sections free, and pushed forward 

with it and a couple of our own barricades against the lines of police that immediately 

rushed to meet us. This confrontation was much more pitched than the earlier one had 

been; the police rained blows upon us, and we struck back, lifting the visors of their 

helmets to even the odds where necessary. One particularly aggressive officer lost his 

head in the fray and found himself surrounded by us^ — ^his colleagues had to snatch him 

over the fence to safety. It was real pandemonium at times, when police and protesters 

were mixed up and the lines between them became unclear; I believe at one point I even 

saw a demonstrator make use of a stage diving technique to get into the action! Once 

again, those the police attempted to nab for arrests were freed, but we failed to make 

much headway against their lines. In the end, we lifted the section of metal fencing over 

our heads and passed it to the back of the crowd, where it was dropped into a pit at the 

foot of the building behind us so it would not block further advances on our part. This 

simple disposal of a large segment of the police barricade was gratifying, at least, but it 

was dear we weren't prepared to break through their lines frontally. 

The fascist rally was in fiill swing, now, with the two dozen of them who had made 

it out of the parking lot holding their swastika flags and making their speeches, most 

of which were drowned out by audience noise. The pohce had prohibited even the few 

fascist sympathizers who had shown up from passing through their lines, perhaps as 

^ ,.j. . , . ,. a result of our activities; it was only fascist would-be leaders, their children, and the 

Antifasast Action ' 

60 cameras of the mainstream media on the site. Lacking other ideas as to how to interrupt 

the event, some who had brought smoke bombs attempted to deploy one. The plywood 
banners that were still in our possession proved usefol here: by holding them up in the 
air, some were able to obscure the vision of the police ahead of us (though perhaps not 
of the rooftop snipers with binoculars) while others attempted to light and throw the 
smoke bomb. Under the circumstances this was imprudent at best, though, since at 
that point there were many around us who were not prepared for this level of risk. Some 
of us, not sure how we felt about what was going on, took it upon ourselves to form a 
buffer between the ones with the smoke bomb and everyone else. The inexperienced 
individual who attempted to hurl the smoke bomb once it was lit failed to get it past 
the banners, and it was something of a debacle, though no one was hurt (or especially 
frightened, with the possible exception of said individual). As my friend's high school 
band teacher always told him, practice at home! 

Others among us took advantage of the sympathetic crowd cover to paint the buildings 
behind us with small slogans and artwork critical of fascism. Conversations took place, 
as well: people asked why we were wearing masks, and were generally understanding 
when we explained it was to avoid being profiled by the police— and, for that matter, the 
fascists, who were running surveillance of demonstrators for their own purposes. 

The only decidedly negative reception any of us experienced came from two of the 
organizers of the permitted rally. One of them, a white man associated with the flagship 
state university, had come up to us when we were engaged in our standoff between the 
parking lot and the rally site, suggesting that we cease our militant activity and join the 
silent, passive protest in the permitted zone; he insistently persisted, providing no tacti- 
cal rationale for why we should give up the gains we had made at that point, until one 
hotheaded young person finaUy asked if he was a police agent. The other, somewhat less 
absurdly, asked the demonstrator with the big drum to stop playing it in the proximity 
of the permitted zone, on the grounds that it was drowning out their silent protest' for t? ^'*'"" 

Antifascist Action 

a time, the drummer was silent, out of respect for her request. Some tempers did flare 
in the midst of the fray, it's true, and it is possible that others exchanged harsh words at 
some point during the day. It's very important that those of us who practice direct action 
demonstrate the utmost in civility and sensitivity in the process of doing so, so there 
will never be any question about what part of our hearts such actions proceed from, or 
whether direct action activists are generally welcoming and responsible people. 

Back to the action. At this point, certain that we were not going to succeed in actually 
shutting down the rally, many of us made our way back up the perimeter toward the 
parking lot, to enact plan B: go after their cars. At the corner we had occupied before, 
we were met once again with a line of police, and there was another skirmish, this time 
involving mounted police as well. There were some blows and angry words exchanged 
between poHce officers and protesters — the latter now including a broad diversity of 
individuals, not just the organized demographic that had initiated direct action at the 
beginning of the event. Yet again, those the pohce grabbed were pulled free, but our 
progress was blocked. All the same, some individuals, moving stealthily outside the 
mass, subsequently managed to circumvent the police line and infiltrate the parking lot. 
The tires of a vehicle belonging to a fascist skinhead were slashed, and some scuffling 
and chasing ensued. The individuals involved managed to get away, but the rest of us 
on the corner could have done better to support them by making another charge at the 
police line around this time to create a distraction. 

It was shortly afterwards that the day's five arrests took place; all five of them were the 
result of individuals walking around apart from the masked bloc while still wearing their 
masks. This made them obvious targets for pohce. Clearly, we should have gone over that 
lesson more thoroughly beforehand: wear your mask with "die others in masks who can 
protect you, and change your appearance radically when you leave their company. One 
individual's collarbone was broken in the process of the arrest, thanks to a policeman's 

overzealous tackling. All those arrested were bailed out of jail by that evening; an experi- 
enced civil rights lawyer volunteered to take their cases gratis, and succeeded in slipping 
them through the legal system with a minimum of hassles and repercussions. 

Realizing that our morale was waning, our numbers dwindling, and the most dan- 
gerous period of the day approaching— when the permitted protesters would disperse, 
leaving only us and the police— we decided against attempting to assail the fascists as 
they were returned to the parking lot. It was time to quit while we were ahead, before 
any more arrests could be made. Those of us in masks and sweatshirts melted into the 
larger crowd, swiftly changing our clothing outside the view of the police, and then 
made our way in ones and twos out of the area as protesters from the permitted protest 
did the same. We suffered no more arrests in this process; we had successfully delayed 
the state-subsidized fascist rally, decorated the walls of the state political district with 
politics of our own, fought over a hundred and fifty thoroughly equipped riot pohce, and 
lived to tell the tale. 

Most mainstream media coverage of the event was deceitful, to say the least. They 
drastically underestimated the number of protesters, misrepresented the atmosphere 
by describing people as practically being amenable to the fascist presence, and made 
little to no mention of the way we delayed the rally or the violence with which the police 
responded. The fact that the mainstream cameras and reporters were the only ones al- 
lowed inside the police hnes with the fascists was as teHing as the spectacle many of us 
witnessed of the police chief and the fascist top dog smiling and laughing and chatting 
together behind the police lines. 

Underground and independent media coverage was much more thorough and hon- 
est. Predictably there was a post on a website from the white graduate student men- 
tioned above, arguing that although he understood the value of diversity of tactics, this 
demonstration had not been the appropriate time for direct action. Such a statement is g^"*^^'"'* ^^""^ 

disingenuous: accepting diversity of tactics means recognizing and respecting that oth- 
ers are going to make their own decisions about tactics and act accordingly, not granting 
that diverse approaches are acceptable "when I say so"! He argued, essentially, that the 
most proper role any counter-demonstration could play was to involve the greatest pos- 
sible number of people, especially those most seriously affected by fascist organizing — 
presumably assuming that non-confrontational tactics are always the most popular, that 
people of color are not interested in confrontational tactics (a patronizing, even subtly 
racist attitude), and that people of color are the only ones at risk from fascist organizing 
(when, in fact, people of anarchist and queer orientations, not to mention Jewish heri- 
tage, all of whom were present in our number along with people of color, are also signifi- 
cantly at risk from fascist activity). I would argue to the contrary that there were at least 
one hundred people at the protest that day, if not more, who went explicitly to confront 
the fascists and their protectors, and who wouldn't have been there otherwise — that is 
to say, the best way to involve the greatest number of people is for the broadest possible 
array of approaches to be applied without interfering with one another. For the most part, 
we took great care to keep well away from the area reserved for the permitted rally, and 
did a decent job of not hindering their chosen approach. With the exception of this indi- 
vidual, and a clown (yes, literally, a clown) the mainstream media found to say that it was 
unfair that our noise was drovming out the fascists' articulation of their ideas, few others 
expressed disapproval of the way our actions interacted wdtii those of other protesters. 

After the smoke cleared, we met again to discuss what had worked and what could 

have worked better. Spirits were generally high. We had demonstrated the power of a 

few individuals to come up with an idea, deploy it in the face of incredible odds, and 

A ff tA f influence the course of events. Acting on our own initiative, exploring our potential 

64 in practice, we had taken on the assembled powers of the Ku Klux Klan, the National 

Socialist Movement, and the state government, and scored some significant victories. 
Our initial plan for converging and setting the tone for the day's events had worked, and 
had we had a little more experience, numbers, or morale, we might well have shut the 
rally down entirely. Beyond this, we had all gotten to know one another much better, and 
learned a lot about the amazing things we could do together. 

Antifascist Action 

Asphalt Mosaics 

A Hot Weather Acthity for 
Lonely Asphalt Near You 



This is a method for making colorful, permanent mosaic installations in asphalt roads 
and lots. Like glass, asphalt appears to be a solid but is actually a liquid; this means that 
a design affixed to it with more asphalt will eventually settle in and become a part of it. 
We owe our awareness of this technique to a nameless mystic we have never encoun- 
tered in person. 

We saw the first one in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We were walking along a downtovra. 
street when we spotted a colorful patch of text embedded in the asphalt of a crosswalk. 
It was clearly made of vinyl floor tile — but how was it attached? We found the piece pic- 
tured on the left at the comer of Smithfield Street and Oliver Avenue. 

As we walked we saw more versions of the same design. While befuddled by the 
message, we were amazed by the technique, and avidly discussed how it might be 
reproduced. But a few blocks later, miraculously, we came upon the Rosetta Stone, a 
similar piece of the same material and text . . . except that this one featured an addi- 
tional block of smaller text: instructions! The words were old and badly damaged, but 
we could just make out the crucial sentence: ". . . i use asphalt crack filler ..." We 
got right to work. 

The next time we came through Pittsburgh we were on tour. Part of our program was 
a skillshare on asphalt decor, and we had already left a respectable trail of color across 
the country. After our workshop, we ventured downtown to visit the original pieces. 
When we got there, we found most of them — ^but the crucial piece, the one with the 

instructions, was gone. It had been buried under a fresh slab of asphalt. We had discov- 
ered it in the nick of time. 

In a subsequent internet search, we found that the same text has been spotted all over 
the world, though mostly in North and South America. There even seems to be a fan 
club. According to one posting, a piece in New York starts with the same Toynbee text, 
then adds, "Murder every journalist, I beg you." Well, we would never be so impolite, 
but between that and the kindly instructions provided in Pittsburgh, it's clear where the 
artist stands on do-it-yourself media. 

So, in the spirit of the inventor who was thoughtftil enough to declassify his or her 
technique, we present the findings of our attempts to reverse-engineer it. Now, go make 
and glue tiles!! You!!!! As media!!! 

The so-called "Toynbee Tiles" are made out of two kinds of floor covering material: Vinyl 
Composition Tile and true Linoleum. 

Vinyl Composition Tile: The text is vinyl composition tile, also called "VCT" VCT 
works because its color is solid, so when it wears down it still looks good. What will not 
work is the variety of self-adhesive, so-called "linoleum" tiles sold in hardware and tile 
stores. The surface of those tiles, whether it is a color or faux marble, is a paper-thin 
veneer. When it wears down, it reveals its white substrate. For Christ's sake, don't even 
use those on your kitchen floor! 

VCT is cheap, even brand new. It sells for less than sixty cents a square foot at hard- 
ware marts. The problem is that color selection is generally limited to a few bland op- 
tions when you're only buying single tiles. They do come in exciting colors, though, and 
if you want to order a case you can get almost any color you want; however, a case is 
expensive, and it's unlikely that you will ever need forty-five square feet of any one color, 
so we have some other recommendations. 


Asphalt Mosaics 

A lot of cities these days have salvage building-supply warehouses. They are often 
non-profit and community-run. These are a good place to start, as they usually have 
partial cases in a variety of colors. We have also had luck calling and stopping by floor 
covering stores and/or installation contractors. We ask if they have any partial cases in 
their storage area that we could have for an art project. Sometimes they are generous, 
sometimes they ask for a little money. Another method that has worked well with other 
materials is a classified "want ad" in the local paper. If someone has redone their own 
kitchen fioor, they may have a partial box that they couldn't bring themselves to toss but 
don't really need. People love to donate these kinds of materials to starving artists. 

Linoleum: The background of the Toynbee tiles is made of linoleum. Like VCT, 
linoleum is solid color through and through. But beware — ^the word "linoleum" is also 
used generically to refer to any non-ceramic floor tile. True linoleum is a very specific 
product made of flax fiber and linseed oil. You must use the real thing. Like carpet, 
linoleum mostiy comes in rolls, and has to be cut and fitted into place when installed. 
For this reason, it is highly likely that you will be able to get cut-offs for cheap or free 
from an installation contractor or salvage lot. 

Asphalt Crack Filler: Asphalt crack filler is acrylic-based liquid tar made for filling 
cracks in asphalt driveways. It is available in most hardware stores, especially in the 
summertime, when it is best applied. It comes in one-gallon jugs. We have found many 
brands, but just two basic types. The regular strength stuff says that it will fill cracks of 
up to half an inch. The maximum strength product says it will fill 3/4-inch cracks and 
last longer. Both work, but for the minimal price difference, we lean toward the heavy- 
duty stuff It goes for around $7.50 a gallon. One gallon is good for a dozen or more 
one-square-foot designs. 
Asphalt Mosaics CARDBOARD OR PLYWOOD BOARD for an area as big as your design, in good condition 

68 and flat with no creases or dents. 

Water-soluble glue 

Utility knife (with plenty of 

blades, as they dull quickly on VCT) 

Metal ruler or straight edge 

Stapler or tape 

Heat gun (optional, but helpjul) 

You have two options for creating your design. You can make mosaics, or you can Instructions 
make what well call Toynbee-style pieces, in which your text or image is set into a 
solid background. 

The advantage of the mosaic approach is that they can be made with VCT alone. You 
may find VCT to be easier to obtain than linoleum. Because of its brittleness, VCT is 
hard to cut into precise shapes such as small letters, and large pieces of it can crJck apart 
as the road shifts with temperature and pressure. Mosaics circumvent these problems, 
piecing together small, randomly cut pieces of tile to form a design. 

First, you have to make whole tiles into pieces. We've developed a method for produc- 
ing durable pieces of irregular shapes. Using a utility knife and straightedge, score a 
line 1/2 to 3/4 inch from the edge of a tile {figure i.i). Now gently work from one end of 
the line to another, bending the strip away from the score line. The crack will become 
deeper and deeper, until it finaUy breaks. Once you have removed the strip, score it 
crossways to make smaller bits {figure 1.2). It is best to make a wide variety of shapes: 
squares, rectangles, rhombi, triangles. The more variety you have, the easier it will be to 
put your image together. 

Next, you need a fiat surface. It is best to work on a flat piece of plywood or thick 
cardboard, so you can move your piece as necessary. Cut out a piece of tarpaper that is 
larger than your design, and tape or staple it to your work surface. The tarpaper needs 
to be flat and smooth; tears or wrinkles will mess things up. 


Asphalt Mosaics 

Asphalt Mosaics 

Smear the surface of the tarpaper with an even coat 
of waterproof wood glue. The glue-covered area should 
extend one or two inches beyond the edges of your design 
on all sides. Let the glue dry thoroughly. 

Prepare the surface for layout. With a cloth, spread a 
thin layer of glue on the dry glue. This wUl cause the let- 
ters to stick to the glue surface. 

Lay out your design on the glue-coated tarpaper {figure 3,3) . 
If the glue dries before you get all the tile down, add a thin layer of 
fresh glue. Laying out the tile pieces will appeal to your compulsive 
side. Put them down like a puzzle, custom-shaping pieces if need 
be. Aim to maintain consistent 1/8 -inch gaps between tiles; as the 
tile itself is i/8-inch thick, you can use a piece of tile as a guide 
(figure 1.4). If the tiles are too close to one another, the tar will have 
trouble flowing between pieces; if they are too far apart, the tar will 
span the gap, but it will be a weak spot. A consistent layout will also 
make your design more readable. Keep your design at least one inch 
away from the edge of your plastic, staples, or tape. 

If you are using text, lay it out backwards. This is easy to forget! What you see when 
you lay out your image will actually be the underside when it is installed. 

Allow the second layer of glue to dry thoroughly. Before you move on to adding tar, 
make sure no tile bits are loose. If one is loose, glue it back down. 

Shake the jug of asphalt crack filler thoroughly and pour it over your design (figure 
1.5). The ideal consistency of the crack filler is like honey. If the brand you are using is 
too thick, place the jug in the sun so it will flow better; you can also try adding a httle 
water. The important part of this step is to get the tar between the tiles. The surfaces of 

the tiles need not be tar-free, but you should be able to see the shapes and some of the 
colors of the tiles. When the entire design is covered, add a 1/2-inch border of tar beyond 
the edge of the tiles. 

Cut a piece of tarpaper in the shape of your design and, while the tar is still wet, press 
the tarpaper into the tar. If the paper starts to curl at the edges, do something to hold 
it down. Once the tarpaper is stuck flat, spread another layer of tar on the back of the 
tarpaper, so it is completely coated with tar This second layer of tar should be no more 
than 1/ 1 6-inch thick. Refer to "Finishing and Installing" to complete your project. 

The Toynbee method is laborious, but it looks fantastic, and produces installations that Toynbee-Style Designs 
are, by some indications, more durable than mosaics. For our example, we will assume 
you are using text, although you can use an image instead. 

First, cut your text out of either VCT or linoleimi {figure 3. 6). It is worth your while to 
use a very sharp utility blade for this. Both linoleum and VCT become soft and easier to 
cut if left in the sun; if you are doing anything intricate, a heat gun makes the stuff cut 
like butter If need be, you can make difficult letters in more than one piece. 

Next, trace the text {figure i.y). Lay out a piece of linoleum (not VCT) and arrange your 
text on it. Using a fine-point permanent marker or dark pencil, make a close tracing of 
each letter, or place the entire text on the linoleum at once and use a light dusting of spray 
paint to transfer the letters precisely onto the background. If you use the spray paint 
method, lay out the text backwards, so the paint will be on the back side of your tiles. 

Now, cut out the negative space. Use a sharp blade, and make sure your linoleum is 
warm. Cut out the traced letters as precisely as possible {figure 1.8). Save the spaces in 
letters such as "O" and "B" to put back in. Save the letters you cut out; you can use them 
with a background of a different color for your next design. Toynbee-style pieces do not 
require an i/8-inch gap between pieces— in fact, the tighter the fit the better. y'/ ^ * ^°""''' 

Staple or tape a piece of tarpaper on a flat portable sur- 
face — cardboard and plywood both work well. Cover the 
tarpaper with a thin, even layer of waterproof wood glue. 
Spread the glue so it covers an area larger than your de- 
sign by at least two inches on all sides. 

Next, place the design. Lay the linoleum background 
onto the wet glue so that the readable side is stuck to the 
tarpaper. Fit each letter into place {figure i.g). Thoroughly 
remove any glue that has made its way onto the side of the 
tiles not facing the tarpaper. When everything is in place, 
weight the piece down with a board, and allow twelve or 
more hours for the glue to dry completely; it takes much 
longer than usual because there is hardly any airflow. 

Aflier the glue is dry, apply the tar. Squeeze some tar 
on the center of the design, and use a piece of card to 
spread it to a i/i6-inch thickness. Add a 1/2-inch perim- 
eter of tar around the edge of the entire design. 

Cut a piece of tarpaper in the shape of your design, and 
press the tarpaper into the wet tar, just as you would in preparing a mosaic design. Once 
the tarpaper is stuck flat, spread another layer of tar on the back of the tarpaper so it is com- 
pletely coated with tar. This second layer of tar should be no more than i /16-inch thick, 

Finishing and Installing 

Asphalt Mosaics 

Let your piece dry. In warm sunlight, most crack flUers will dry sufficiently in eight 
hours; in the shade or indoors, it could take up to twenty-four hours. When you think it 
is safe to handle your piece, detach it from the board. The side that has been facing the 
board is the top of your mosaic. Trim the tarpaper on the top side so that it is a half-inch 

bigger than the tar-coated tarpaper on the bottom side. The layer of tarpaper on top of 
your piece will remain until it is washed or worn away. 

Prepare the bottom surface of your piece. Different tar products dry to different con- 
sistencies. If your tar has dried like tire rubber— flexible, yet dry to the touch— use a 
paper towel to spread a very thin layer of fresh tar to the bottom side. The goal here is to 
create a sticky surface, not to make a layer of wet tar! If your tar has dried to be flexible 
and sticky, it is not necessary to add fresh tar. 

Find a spot. Asphalt crack filler sticks only to asphalt such as is used to make roads, 
sidewalks, and paths. It does not work on concrete, brick, or cobblestone. Find a high- 
visibility location. We highly recommend crosswalks, as your piece is probably scaled for 
pedestrian viewing: pedestrians will be able to enjoy your work as they cross the road, 
and the passing cars will help mash the piece into the asphalt. Also, in their capacity as 
dumb and dangerous moving objects, cars will faithfully deter someone from kneeling 
down to pick at your piece. Yes, just this once, the cars are working for you! 

Don't let your masterpiece be covered up in the prime of its life just because the road 
needed repair. Your tile can last for ten years, possibly longer than its asphalt host. Apply 
your piece on the freshest asphalt you can find that is also a good location. Also, new 
asphalt is softer and stickier, and thus more receptive to your decorations. 

Install your artwork. You should install your designs during warm weather, when the 
asphalt is warm, soft, and dry. If the forecast calls for significant rains in the next few 
days, wait until they have passed. Bring a small brush to remove sand or debris from 
the road. Place your piece by simply setting it down, tar side to the road. Now walk, skip, 
jump, and run all over it to make sure it is firmly planted. The top layer of tarpaper will 
serve to camouflage and stabilize your piece for the first few weeks, when ft is most vul- 
nerable, while ft begins to join with the road. Eventually, the top layer will wear through 
or wash away, unveiling your masterpiece. ^f ^"'* ^'''''"' 



^ ~^ lys^/VEax 

You can give your tile more time set into the asphalt by adding extra layers of tarpaper 
on top of the design. Before you go out, cut two pieces of tarpaper a few inches bigger 
than your tile aU around. Smear the pieces of tarpaper with a generous amount of glue, 
and stick them together glue side to glue side. This will keep them from drying out or 
sticking to things on the way to the installation site. Once you have laid the tile down 
and walked on it a bit, peel the two pieces of tarpaper apart and paste them — one on top 
of another — over the tile. 

Brightly colored tiles look the best on asphalt; colors like dark green tend to be in- 
visible unless they are used effectively with other colors. Make sure there is plenty of 
color or tone contrast between your figure and its background, especially if your design 
includes text. 

Experiment with other materials! You have probably seen pennies, fasteners, and bits 
of brake light embedded in asphalt at intersections; thin bits of metal, mirror, or plastic 
will work too. 

To make cutting easier, heat your VCT or linoleum with a heat gun or in an oven set 
on warm; make sure the area in which you do this is well ventilated. 

As vrith stickers and stencils, pizza boxes are great for transporting pieces to their 
designated sites (figure 

This technique has a lot to recommend it over standard graffiti and wheatpasting: it 
can be more permanent, it makes use of a medium not yet often utilized creatively, it is 
still virtually unknown to the authorities and so can be remarkably easy to get away vdth- 
Here's a dare: make asphalt mosaics as popular — and linpopular — tomorrow as spray 
paint murals are today! 

Asphalt Mosaics 

Banner Drops 

Rope or chain 
Plastic water bottles 

OR similar weights 
Extra-strong upholstery sewing 

thread or dental floss 

Padlocks (no key necessary, if you 

come upon them unlocked), or metal dips 
Sewing machine 

Parking garages 
Highway overpasses 
Building roofs 

Fabric — you can use painters' drop doth 
covered in white primer paint, or visit the 
laundry bin of a disagreeable institution 
one night to collect their tablecloths 

Paint — preferably water-based, as oil paint 
takes forever to dry; house paint works well 
enough, and is cheapest 

Gallon jugs filled with sand— /or weights, 

if there is nowhere to tie the banner up 

You could also try the balcony level of a church, 
movie theater, coliseum, auditorium 


A banner drop can enable you to get a simple message out in dramatic style. Drop-ban- 
ners take significantly more time to prepare, but significantly less to deploy than graffiti 
of comparable size, and are less illegal. They can be most effective in crowded environ- 
ments dunng special events, or to accentuate and clarify an action taking place nearby 
You can make a really huge banner by sewing together smaller pieces of cloth" be sure 

Optional Materials 

Optinnal Deployment Locations 



If your city has a hazardous 

liquid drop-off, contact them 

and ask if you can obtain paint 

from them free of charge. 

Banner Drops 

they won't come undone, though! Double- or triple-stitching with exceptionally tough 
thread is probably necessary. When deciding on the size, keep in mind the way it will be 
transported to the place of use, the dimensions of the area where it will be deployed, and 
the distance from which it will be seen. 

To decorate your banner, you need not be an accomplished artist; simply draw a scale 
model of the image or statement you would like to paint, separate that image into equal 
sections, mark off matching sections proportionately on the banner, and use these as 
guides. You can trace the lines first with chalk. You will probably need an open space 
outside the surveillance of the authorities to work in, since when your banner appears 
you won't want it — or yourself — to look familiar to any agents of law enforcement. The 
paint will almost certainly soak through the material and onto whatever is beneath it, so 
be prepared for this as well, in terms of security as well as tidiness. Be careful above all 
not to spell any words wrong (!) or bunch up your lines of text near the end, and make 
sure your colors are striking and high-contrast and your images similarly easy to discern. 
Don't use spray paint to paint your banner unless you are especially talented with it. 

Fold the edges of both sides of the banner over equal lengths of rope or chain, and sew 
the fabric around it. Run the thread through the rope or chain and the banner, so the ban- 
ner won't just slip off when it is vertical, and make sure to leave plenty of rope or chain at 
the top. Chain is heavier and thus provides more stabilizing weight for the banner than 
rope does, but is also much harder to transport and use quickly (and more expensive, 
unless you're hunting/ gathering it); it is much more difficult for police to break, but they 
will probably pull the banner up before cutting it off, anyway, so unless you can some- 
how anchor the bottom of it as well as the top, using chain will probably not add to your 
banner's time in the limelight. If your banner is exceptionally long, it's probably wise to 
sew a length of rope or chain along a segment in the center of the top side, too, leaving 
some of it on each side, so the banner can be hung from four points rather than two. 

At the bottom of the ropes or chains, attach your water bottles, full of water. Attach 
them very firmly, so they won't drop off, as that could cause problems. These are weights 
to hold the banner in place (the first banner we dropped, off the balcony of a restaurant 
at which we had bought a root beer as a pretext, simply tangled up in the wind and was 
useless). For further protection against the wind, make U-shaped cuts in the fabric— the 
wind should blow through these without troubling the rest of the banner {figure 2.1). Roll 
your banner up bottom first, with the water bottles inside and the text facing the inside 
of the roll; practice being sure which way your banner unrolls before you are in the mo- 
ment of truth, so you don't lose time panicking or, worse, get it wrong. Be careful not to 
roll your banner too tightly, especially as the paint, even dry, can make it stiff and a little 
sticky; it may not unroll all the way when you drop it, forcing you to pull it up and unroll 
it yourself in perhaps less-than-optimal circumstances. 

For deployment, a team of two is usually best. Pick a time and location where the vis- 
ibility balances out the risk. You'll have to get the banner there, somehow: if it's a freeway 
overpass, you could pull over and hop out, or just run up the ramp with it if you don't want 
to risk a license plate number being taken; if it's at the top of a busy corporate ofhce build- 
ing patrolled by guards during a terrorism scare, you're probably better off not carrying 
a huge, suspicious parcel up in the elevator— are there stairs in the back.? If you find an 
abandoned building that you can get in and out of easily enough and that isn't frequently 
checked upon, and you don't have anywhere else to work, you could theoretically smuggle 
in the materials and go through some or all of the banner-making process inside before 
dropping the banner(s) off the roof— and securing the hatch behind you with your own 
padlock for extra longevity. The hard part is always going to be getting out of the place 
after you've dropped: generally speaking, the more conspicuous the location is, the more 
people know immediately that you're there, and the longer it will take you to get down 
and out — and the less likely you are to have any kind of crowd cover as you do so. Dress 

2 7 



1 1 


Banner Drops 

In the laund^ bins behind 

restaurants, hotels, and similar 

institutions, you can find napkins 

and tablecloths for making 

patches, banners, and other art 

projects that require fabric. 

Banner Drops 

as nondescripdy as possible (or as maintenance employees!), and practice moving quickly 
up and down stairwells without getting suspiciously out of breath. Check the area out 
ahead of time; if you're going to be on security cameras at any point, bring a change of 
clothes, glasses, a hat, a reversible jacket, or other accessories to disguise your identity. 

Transport your banner in such a way that you know exactly how to orient it when the 
moment comes. Unless you think you'll have time to tie knots at a leisurely pace, con- 
sider using padlocks or carabineers: have a loop pre-tied at the end of the rope so you 
can simply loop it around the bar or pipe or whatever you're securing it to and snap the 
lock or clip onto the loop and the rope on the other side. If there's nowhere to attach a 
rope or chain, you can use heavy weights — plastic jugs filled with sand, for example — to 
anchor the banner. Make sure the ropes or chains suspending your banner are stretched 
tight apart at the top, so it won't bunch up — check in advance to make sure this is pos- 
sible, and that your anchor can handle the weight you're suspending from it. Then walk 
or run like hell and keep your cool. 

There are a variety of other approaches to bannering. If you can toss a weight vrith a 
string attached from one rooftop to another across a street, and your friend on the other 
side ties a rope to the string for you to reel back and secure, you could then pull a ban- 
ner across the rope to hang in the middle of the street on carabineers or shower curtain 
loops; some hardware stores stock a little dart-gun device that electricians use for getting 
wires across cramped spaces, which might be useful for such situations. There is a ban- 
ner-dropping technique in which people are suspended in the air with the barm^er, as a 
form of civil disobedience to ensure the banner will remain up for as long as the individ- 
uals are willing to hang there; this has been applied, among other places, in Seatde just 
before the W.T.O. meeting in November 1999. Such a technique is dangerous enough 
that it should only be taught in person. For another application of banners — ^launching 
them with hot air balloons^see Corporate Downsizing (pg. 205). 

For our final test run before composing this recipe, we dropped a 27' long by i8' wide ban- 
ner fourteen stolen tablecloths triple-stitched together by sewing machine, a gallon and 
a halt of house pamf 100 feet of rope, two water bottles, and four metal cHps which were 
&e on^y iterns we had to pay for) ofFthe top of a six-story parking garage in the middle of a 
tourth of July parade in downtown Greensboro, North CaroHna. The banner could be seen 
from down two streets along which the parade proceeded, on one of them up to a distance 
of many blocks. We tailored our message to be accessible to an audience attending a patri- 
otic event an audience composed largely of white and African-American working parents 
and their hds, while responding clearly to recent government propaganda encouraging 
people to accept curtailed freedom in return for "protection" from the "terrorist threat- 
Those who trade liberty for secunty mill end up with neither, wilb Ben Franklin's name (as 
the dubious author of an earlier version of this quote) and a circled A at the bottom That 
same government propaganda had made us quite nervous in the days leading up to the 
event: every time the radio was on, it was some announcer talking about how police and 
plainclothes F.B J. agents would be out in force and on fUU alert this Independence Day to 
prevent terrorist strikes . We were afraid that, running up to the railing above the crowd and 
dropping a great bundle toward them, we could look even more dangerous than we were 
Ihe parking garage was dosed, ofFlimits to the public (police line do mot cross) on the 
day of the parade, but we had noted in advance that some vehicles were left parked there 
for many days at a time, and parked a car witii the banner in the trunk on the top deck 
there the preceding day When the parade began, two of us. dressed in our nicest clothes 
snuck past security and walked up the first couple of decks; a man drove past us in a staff 
vehicle, but for some reason did not stop us (our story would have been that we had left 
something m our car, which was parked there before the area was closed off but I'm glad 
we didn't have to tell it). We then took the elevator, which we hadn't been expecting to 
work, to the top deck, which was-amazingly-unguarded, took out the banner lost pre- 


Banner Drops 

cious instants debating which side was the front and struggling to lock a car trunk neither 
of us had ever locked before, clipped the ropes around a metal pipe, threw the banner over 
the side, and realized that it hadn't unrolled all the way. We had rolled it far too tightly, 
especially since it hadn't needed to be all that compact, waiting in the car trunk! We had 
to pull it back over the edge, having already made our presence known on the street below 
as well as on the security cameras, and unroll all twenty-seven feet of it into the parking 
lot, before struggUng to throw the banner, bunch by bunch, back over the edge, with great 
difficulty (and more than a litde vertigo, as a vertical shaft opened between us and the 
wall). All this induced feelings of panic, but there would have been no reason to leave 
then and render all the work we had done and risks we had taken for naught; we got it 
right, finally, and made for the stairs. We took these to the second floor, but, on opening 
them, saw police; we ran back up to the third floor, walked across one length of the garage 
and took a single flight of stairs we had scouted out in advance, and managed, against the 
odds, to escape without even being questioned. One of us changed clothes immediately 
after the banner dropped, but still in front of the security cameras, the other after we 
reached the street and the safety of the crowd, which was perhaps a better strategy. 

It took them an amazing half an hour before they began to pull up the banner — ^that 
is, it hung above the parade for most of its duration! There were two sympathetic groups 
a banner in power lines, or use a kite participating in the parade — the Greensboro Peace CoaUtion, and the more radical anar- 
to fly it into a tall tree. chist contingent — and both made sure, as they passed, to emphasize the presence of the 
banner to any who might have missed it before, by pointing at it. Several photographers 
took pictures or footage of it, and there were many others at the parade who were visibly 
thrilled about its appearance. Best of all, later that day, when the banner had been brought 
down and thrown under the police truck in attendance at the festival following the parade, 
someone managed to sneak it out from under the noses of the pigs, to be returned to its 

You can use hot air balloons to catch 

Banner Drops 

So makers! So when they least expect it, it will hang again over the city. 

Banner Hoists 

This method works on any horizontal beam, pipe, or limb that is low enough to toss 
a rope over but high enough so no one can reach the bottom of your banner It is par- 
ticularly well suited to the ridged arms of traffic hght posts in busy intersections Power 
hnes may electrocute you, so leave them be. Hoisted properly a banner can only be 
removed by a crane truck, which will block traffic and make a furffier spectacle With 
practice ffiis method can be carried out in a matter of moments, so busier intersections 
can be targeted. 

3 Bundles of plastic-coated clothesline 

Two of the lines need to be four times as long 
as your target pok is high. Refer to "Tips" at 
the bottom for how to measure the height of 
the pole. 

2 Large molly bolts — Molly holts must he 
able to fit through carabineers when folded 
but not when open (figure 2.2). 

2 Cheap hardware store carabineers 

1 Roll of duct tape 

2 Tube socks — bottoms filled with grain, 

pebbles, or any weight that can be tossed high 

1 Banner — see preceding recipe 

2 Thin pieces of 2" by 1" wood — 

to keep the banner straight, one 
should be about 8" longer than 
your banner, the other the same 
length as your banner. 

Staple gun 

2 Pairs of sharp scissors — 
utility scissors are best 


aim helps too! 





Assembly Required 

Paint a hell of a banner — you won't get it back. Center the banner on the longer piece of 
wood and staple it securely. You should have 3 or 4 extra inches of wood on each end. At- 
tach the other piece of wood along the bottom for weight. No need for the bottom wood 
to overhang {figure z.j). 

Cut two 5' lengths of clothesline. Make a 6" loop at one end of each piece and rein- 
force with duct tape. 

Tie an overhand knot 4" from each loop. Run the clothesline through the molly bolt 
so that its jaws close away from the loop. Tie another knot on the other 
side of the molly bolt to keep it in place. Make sure the bolt can still 
open and close {figure 2,4). 

Tape the end of the 5' piece of clothesline to the front of the piece of 
wood and the carabineer to the back {figure 2.^), Be firm with the tape. 
You need to be certain tihat the carabineer will stay perpendicular to the 
banner as shown. You also don't want the end of the line to come loose. 
Repeat on the other end. 

You have two more packs of clothesline, one for each 
side. Feed a clothesline through one of the loops. Don't stop 
feeding until it is exactly halfway through. Now you have the 
same amount of line on either side of the loop. Tape the two 
ends of the line together Use duct tape to attach weighted 
socks to the two ends of the clothesline. Repeat for other 
side {figure 2.6). Now your banner is all set! 

Banner Hoists 

Position the banner facing oncoming traffic and set it down on the road so all hands 
are free for tossing. Both people simultaneously throw the weighted socks over the pole 
{figure 2.y). Be careful not to cross the lines. Look out for tangling spots like trees, power 
lines, or hanging traffic lights. When the weighted socks have successfully delivered the 
ropes over the pole, each person grabs their weighted sock and clips its clothesline into 
the carabineer. 

Now use your scissors to cut the weighted socks off the clothesline, while keeping a 
firm grasp on both ends of the line. 

Each person ptdls both ends of their clothesline so that the banner rises evenly Pull 
until the molly bolt passes through the carabineer and snaps open. This can be the most 
difficult part. You may need to jiggle the lines to get the molly bolt through, but don't 
panic ... if it gets stuck, keep jigghng (figure 2.8). 

Once your molly bolt is caught on the carabineers, pull just one end of the clothes- 
line until the other end falls free of the loop. Then . . . you're done! If everything goes 
smoothly the entire hoist should only take a minute or two. 

Practice throwing! Once you get out there, traffic lights can be higher than you thought. 
Maybe you'll be a Httle nervous. Gain confidence by practicing your throws beforehand. Take 
a doubled clothesline with weighted socks attached and practice on a quiet street at night. 

Scout out your area ahead of time. Figure out who is going to stand on which side. 
Look for possible problems like power lines or tree branches. Monitor traffic flow. Walk 
and talk through all the steps to make sure you and your partner get it. 

If you are doing this anywhere near power lines, wait for a dry day! 

To determine the height of a pole . . . Stand around fifty feet from the pole. Hold a 
small ruler at arm's length. Position the ruler so that the zero is at the base of the pole. 
Now measure the pole's height in inches as if you were measuring a photograph of the 

The Hoist 


Banner Hoists 








pole {figure 2,c)). Let's say that, in your view, the pole is "9 inches" 
high. Stay in the same space and keep your arm straight. Pivot the 
ruler so that it is horizontal {figure. 2.10). Measure from the base of the 
pole to some point on the ground that is "9 inches" away. Make note 
of something at that point — ^let's say there's a crack in the sidewalk 
there. Now you know that the crack in the sidewalk is the same dis- 
tance from the bottom of the pole as the pole is high. Use a tape to 
measure the distance — or, if you know the length of your stride, you 
genius you, pace it out. 
Remember — the doubled clothesline must go over the pole and all the way back dovm 
to the ground. That means each line must be at least four times the height of the pole. 

You can convert this method for solo operations. Fix one carabineer in the center of 
the banner. Connect one line to both ends of the banner so that it is loose like a picture- 
hanging wire. Tie the molly bolt rope to the center of the loose rope. Otherwise, follow 
the same directions as above and you shoidd be able to hoist the banner by yourself. 

Banner Toss 

Banner Hoists 

This small-scale banner-hanging technique takes its cue from that perennial feature of 
suburbia, sneakers wrapped around power lines. Add text to a strip of cloth, plastic, or 
Tyvek about four inches wide by about three feet long. At each end, sew or glue a loop 
big enough to fit a four-inch section of broom handle. Cut two such sections, and use 
waterproof glue to secure them in the loops. Tie about four feet of string to one end of 
the banner, and tie a third section of broom handle to the other end of the string. Roll 
the whole thing up — it should fit in your pocket — and take it out to the streets. Practice 
tossing until it only takes one try to get your string wrapped around the power lines and 
your banner hanging dovm {figure 2.11). 

Behavioral Cut-ups 

Our civilization prizes linear progress and development, in which an individual sets 
goals and pursues them; but there is another kind of growth, another kind of learning, 
in which an individual broadens her frame of reference. Focusing only upon linear 
progress, a person might work his whole life and attain all his objectives without ever ex- 
panding his awareness of life's possibilities. Indeed, in this objective-oriented society, it 
is difficult not to develop tunnel vision; and even if you pledge yourself to a life of explo- 
ration, in which every day is to be an adventure, routine is bound to set in sometimes. 

That's where behavioral cut-ups come in. A behavioral cut-up is a method for mak- 
ing the familiar unfamiliar, and thus jerking yourself out of the grip of inertia. In con- 
trast to product-oriented activity, the practice of behavioral cut-ups implies that it could 
be important to achieve something you can't anticipate. Unlike most of the recipes in 
this book, behavioral cut-ups are not usefiil for achieving specific ends, but rather for 
establishing perspectives that can indicate new beginnings. Behavioral cut-ups offer a 
way to uncover the adventure and potential hidden within activities that are normally 
shrouded in habit. 

Behavioral cut-ups are comparable to literary and artistic cut-ups, in which existing texts 
and materials are disassembled and reconstructed in new ways. Dadaists used to cut up 
newspapers and books of poetry, and generate new poems by drawing the pieces out of 
a hat at random; likewise, the behavioral cut-up artist applies scissors and glue to per- 
sonal or social text, reconfiguring commonplace aspects of life in extraordinary ways. 



For a new listening experience, 
you can play your favorite music 
backwards by taking a cassette 
apart with a screwdriver and putting 
the tape reels in backwards. Better, 
record it onto another tape on the 
third or fourth channel of a four- 
track recorder, then listen to the 
other side of the second tape. 

Behai^ioral Cut-ups 

A behavioral cut-up is not a randomization of life so much as a means of departure for 
unexplored territory; as such, it can require careful deliberation. Choosing the most 
promising adjustments to make is a rigorous science, if not an exact one. 

In the most basic form of behavioral cut-up, you attach a stipulation to some formerly 
mundane aspect of life: for example, you decide not to pay for food for a full month, or 
dedicate yourself to climbing every single oak tree in the county, or commit to sending 
your family one postcard every day for a year. Such stipulations focus fresh attention on 
matters you had taken for granted, sharpening your awareness, limbering up your sense 
of self, and revealing new possibilities. Venturing outside the circuit of your daily life, 
you temporarily enter a parallel world in which you are a different person, and learn all 
the things that are banal to that person but brand new to you. 

Behavioral cut-ups are not as unusual as their esoteric name makes them sound. In 
traditions stretching back to the davm of civilization, warriors and shamans have practiced 
them as a form of vision quest: mimicry of animals, ritual use of intoxicants, ecstatic danc- 
ing, public nudity and other taboo acts, rituals of exhaustion, deprivation, and pain — these 
are time-honored techniques for psychic and social experimentation. Even in our prosaic 
age, people engage in similar activities, to varying degrees: fasting during the month of 
Ramadan, building a fort out of cushions in the living room and refusing to come out all 
evening, going to a Halloween party dressed up as Fidel Castro and spending the whole 
night in character, all these are cut-ups, however unconscious or unoriginal. Many people 
have first-hand experience with simple food cut-ups: becoming vegan, for example, focus- 
es new attention on food, transforming social interactions and often resulting in increased 
interest in cooking or gardening. It only remains for us to develop a deliberate practice of 
behavioral cut-ups for their own sake, as tools for education, inspiration, and liberation. 

Behavioral cut-ups need not be grandiose; indeed, the most powerful ones rarely 
sound good on paper. It may not seem like a big life change to commit to something 

trivial like initiating a conversation with a stranger every morning, but the cumulative 
effects can be startling. More extireme behavioral cut-ups can bring you into conflict with 
your fellow citizens — indeed, the other meaning of "cut up" is misbehave — but in the 
long run, such conflict serves to keep life interesting for everyone. 

Behavioral cut-ups may sound like the province of performance artists and others of 
the privileged class, but it is a mistake to write them off as such. Taken seriously, the be- 
havioral cut-up is an exercise in self-expansion, a practice as essential for revolutionaries 
as mutual aid or self-defense. 

Make two lists: things that bore you, and things that are terrifying to you. The former 
should be easy to compile, while the latter may be difficult even to admit to yourself 
Randomly select an item from each list. Invent a practice that combines them: for ex- 
ample, if you picked "commuting" from your boring list, and "public speaking" from 
your frightening list, you might dare yourself to deliver an oration every morning on the 
subway. Keep a journal of your experiences and interactions. 

Select an activity that has always struck you as absurd or unjust and refuse to par- 
ticipate in it, no matter how compHcated this proves. This may sensitize you to trag- 
edies that were once invisible — a few months into veganism, you enter a leather mar- 
ket and experience it as a grave robbers' bazaar — or reveal the excesses of your society 
to your fellow citizens, as in tiie case of the ascetic who carries wdth him all the trash 
he produces. 

Give yourself a special relationship with a location by associating it with a specific 
activity. For example, you could decide that whenever you are in Germany, you are a 
runner who gets up at dawn to jog around the city. 

If your outward appearance has always provided you with the privilege of passing as 
a "normal" human being, paint or dye your skin, or shave off your hair and eyebrows, or 

A Few Behavioral Cut-Upsfor 
Would- Be Beginners 

Behavioral Cut-ups 

You can get in touch with and 

establish power over your fears by 

means of a variety of rituals: try being 

naked with your friends and then 

with less familiar acquaintances, 

being intimate with people of the 

sex opposite the one you are used to 

touching, taking blindfolded tours of 

familiar and unfamiliar environments, 

starting frank conversations with 

strangers, climbing the ladders of 

water towers — nothing can multiply 

your capabilities like confronting the 

limitations you have set for yourself. 

Behavioral Cut-ups 

dress in drag. Don't make any attempt to explain yourself if you want the full benefit of 
learning what life is like for those who attract attention whether they want it or not. 

Go without something you have taken for granted your whole life. For example, learn 
to recognize all the edible and medicinal plants that grow in your region, and spend a 
season living outside, subsisting on them. Refuse to set foot in any buildings for the 
duration of this period. 

Take a weU-knoviTi tool^ — for this example we'll use a toaster — and turn it back into an 
object. Take it far from the kitchen, perhaps to a mountaintop or an abandoned grain silo. 
Say its name continuously for thirty minutes: say it fast, say it slow, spell it out, sing it to 
the tune of your favorite childhood song. Now take it with you to the bank. Wear it as a 
shoe. Run a mile in it. Exhausted, curl up with it for a long nap. Remove one of its shiny 
panels and write a letter upon it to a friend vvdth whom you have lost touch. Invent a doz- 
en other uses for it, and utilize it thus until these are habitual and toast seems strange. 

Violate unspoken social laws about the application of space. Squat one of those vast 
24-hour super-marts for a few days. Conduct experiments, play games, graze on food 
in your "pantry," find a quiet comer to sleep. Pick a neglected category of items {green 
plastic things, paraphernalia of insecurity, materials not produced by slave labor) and, 
cartload by cartload, establish a new section for it. Use stationery to write letters to 
friends, use the phone to invite them over. Throw a party^ — guests need not bring food or 
gifts. Take a disposable camera off the shelf; after taking some unusual photos, repack- 
age it as a gift to its future owner. Add to this list of things to do as the days go by and 
your derangement intensifies. 

Become a guru. Go to a public place where you can set up camp, and establish a 
constant presence there. Bring a project. It will have to be a project that creates ripples 
of notoriety — rumors should spread about your presence. People will approach vrith 
stories for you: give them time, listen. You, above close friends, will be told of injuries. 

secrets, dilemmas, desires. Do not try to solve problems or offer advice: your role is to 
hold the stories as if you were a hiding place. Your visitors will return to sort through 
them, to make amendments and new deposits, to revisit old ones. They will offer you 
food. Occasionally they will ask about your Hfe— but remember, they do this only out 
of politeness and habit, for they know that you are a magic person, you have a project. 
As your relationships grow, your needs vdll be increasingly met by the offerings of your 
visitors. These gifts carry with them the power to cast spells on their behalf Heal them, 
make them well. 

Concoct and carry out your own rites of passage. Invent a series of games to play with 
your friends, and announce a month during which you will change your own lives in 
preparation for the following years of changing the world. You could begin with elabo- 
rate scavenger hunts, and conclude with a sequence of challenges: Starting at noon Fri- 
day at Danielle's house in the placid suburbs, who can get arrested first? {This particular 
example is tailored for the privileged children of the bourgeoisie; there are other equiva- 
lents.) Who can write the most fantastic novel? (This is how Mary Shelley's Frankenstein 
was written— it was her first.) If the world were to end tomorrow, what would you do 
today? OK, on the count of three, go do it. What do you fear most of all? For the final 
exam, confront it, live through it. The ones who survive will be ready for anything. 

Schwabisch Hall, Germany was a world away, but when we left home we brought along 
our clothes. We packed our language, and friends with whom to speak it; and since we 
brought all that, we couldn't forget our habits, personalities, and histories. We dragged 
along grudges, we smuggled in crushes. On the runway, the airplane fought to gain 
speed, its belly stuffed with our baggage. 

As I stared out of the window, the trip began to seem less like an unimaginable voy- 
age and more like a visit to the ocean floor in a little submarine. It seemed dear that for 


Behauioral Cut-ups 

Behavioral Cut-ups 

the ftiU promise of travel to unfold, we needed more than an unimaginable place like 
the small town in Germany for which we were headed; we needed to be unimaginable 
ourselves. After some dehberation, it struck me: "In Germany, I am a runner." Selma 
thought it was a good plan — and like me, she had the qualification of not being a runner 
anywhere else. So we made a pact to behave as though we were runners from the day we 
arrived until the day we left, a full two weeks. 

The next morning, for the first time in our lives, we woke up at a quarter to eight and 
embarked on an hour-long run. Afterwards, exhausted, we sat down with pen and paper 
to make maps. Though our two maps were of the same path, they bore little resem- 
blance, but both showed the waterfall. We had taken a long and overgrown trail to the 
west of town. Just as I was aching to turn around, the air had become mysteriously cool; 
the sound of rushing water pulled my mind from my suffering and my eyes from my 
toes. The waterfall was luminous and green, thick with moss that guided the falling wa- 
ter and made the face of the little cliff look like the bearded face of a gnome. Too vidnded 
to speak, we let the scene wash away the words and the pain. Yes! We had traveled. 

To be in an unknown place is to be disoriented, inspired, exalted by the unknovrai. 
But being receptive to the unknown means becoming unknown. Traveling to Germany 
presented an opportunity to be free of inertia, free of the part of myself that only notices 
what I expect to notice and only does the things I know myself to do. What I searched for 
there was a possible me, a version of myself who, in that case, ran every morning. In that 
foreign space I noticed what he noticed and thought his thoughts. I found a waterfall 
on a tangled path, an abandoned tunnel covered with vines and graffiti, the ruins of a 
castle, and a foggy morning on which, at the peak of our run, the mountaintops looked 
like islands. I found my body reinventing itself for new challenges. 

In going to Germany, I could have stopped speaking, I could have decided to dance 
in the streets without reservation, I could have confined myself to a wheelchair, I coxild 

have become a poet or a stand-up comic. I can only imagine the places where those ex- 
periments woiold have brought me. I do know that there are people who will live and die 
in Schwabisch Hall without ever seeing the things we've seen. I am also reminded that 
there are just as many waterfalls, sanctuaries, and castles in Pittsburgh— I've simply not 
yet been the runner to find them. 

Behavioral Cut-ups 

Bicycle Collectives 

Ingredients Some dedicated and selfless 
Decent mechanical skills — 
and the will to learn and perfect 

A supply of bicycles 
Tools for bicycle repair 

Space — adequate, dependable space 
The kindness of strangers — which will 
ofien provide one or more of the above 

Instructions oh, my god. You want to start a bike collective. You poor thing. You have these fiizzy vi- 
sions of eager children gathering around you, awed by your masterful use of the truing 
stand and so happy about the awesome BMX bike that you're about to give them — give 
them — in perfect working order. You imagine streets clogged v/ith bikes generated by 
your energetic crew, radical bike posses going for midnight rides, more respect for bikes 
on the road, and hundreds of newly empowered bike riders who have learned how to 
completely overhaul their bikes from your noble organization, bypassing the bike shops 
entirely. I'm sure you're smart enough to realize that all of these hopes are impossibly 
exaggerated. I should also point out that some or aU of them are at least partly in reach, 
however, and being part of a functioning, effective bike collective can be very satisfying. 
So, to start. You already apparently have at least one dedicated and selfless volun- 
teer — ^yourself — ^but you would be wise to recruit more if you haven't already. At least 
one of these should have some idea of what they're doing when it comes to bike repair, 
92 and should begin teaching some skiUs to those members who lack them. Even basic 

lessons in patching and changing inner tubes are a good start — you don't have to start 
out overhauling hubs. People will obviously learn things as they go along, but it will be 
demoralizing to you and perplexing for your first customer if you get most of the way 
through fixing the bike and then get stuck when confronted with a loose bottom bracket. 
When repairing for the public, there should always be at least one person around who 
can take care of a particular problem, so they can take over when necessary. 

You should also figure out what the goals of your organization are: this should seem 
fairly obvious, but you'll want to know if your focus is repairing bikes, distributing them 
(and to whom?), teaching bike repair, starting and maintaining a yellow bike program 
(distinctive bikes scattered for public use around the city), activism, something else, or 
some combination of the above. Even crafting a mission statement, hokey as it sounds, 
can help clarify your ideas. Not everything you decide on has to be attempted immedi- 
ately—there's nothing wrong with starting small — but having larger visions can also 
push you to branch out once you've started to get the hang of things, instead of continu- 
ing just to fix bikes for the six kids who live on your street. 

Choose a name. It can be as expHcitly political or as excruciatingly unthreatening 
(The Fuck SUVs Collective, The Bike Garden) as you wish, but try not to pick something 
that's going to embarrass you in a year or two. Also, a reliable way to contact the group 
is important— if your phone numbers change a lot, open a free email account. Your 
contact information will be circulating far and wide once you get started. Finally, decide 
what kind of stinicture you want the organization to have. Do you want to be an official 
non-profit, Vidth bylaws and a board of directors, or do you want to be a loosely organized 
group of grimy mechanics, sharing nothing but a driving passion for bikes and bike 
repair.^ If you're fixing bikes for other people, or giving them bicycles, how much legal 
responsibility can you take on as an organization if anyone is injured? Do you want to 
draw up a waiver (a good idea, probably, just to discourage lawsuits, even if the waiver 

Bicycle Collectives 

wouldn't hold up in court), or do you want to just cross your fingers and hope that no 
one is mean enough to pick on such a cuddly group? Do you want to charge money for 
your services? Recommend compensation? Establish a shding scale? Work out a casual 
or carefully calculated system for exchanging people's labor for your skills and tools and 
parts? Depend on donations? Do you want to schedule a particular day of the week (or 
two or three) to meet, especially if you're providing repairs or workshops or some public 
service, or do you want to leave it up to individual whim? 

Much can be improvised when it comes to bike collectives, but you're definitely going 
to need some bikes. Luckily, they're generally pretty easy to come by. Universities and 
police departments often collect abandoned bikes; landfills and dumpsters see their fair 
share; and once the word gets out about your organization, you will get more bikes than 
you will ever need from middle-class families whose kids have grown too big for their 
old Huffys, or who no longer ride those nice commuter bikes that have been sitting in 
their basements for fifi:een years. If you establish a good relationship with a bike shop, 
they may send everyone on to you who hopes to sell an old bike that isn't worth enough 
for any shop to be interested; having been rejected by the shops, people will ofiien be 
eager just to get the bikes (which are usually in better shape than the ones you dig out of 
a dumpster) off their hands, and v^U drop them off wherever you tell them. A lot of the 
bikes you get wall be of low quality and in horrible shape, and many should go straight 
to the dump (clean metal recycling, if they offer it), but before long you vrill have more 
than you can keep up with that are perfectly good machines. 

Also not negotiable is at least one full set of bike tools. Expect some of these tools to 

disappear every once in a while, especially if you're working with kids, and be prepared 

to replace them. You can do without a few things (a truing stand, bike stands, a headset 

Bicvcle Collectives press) to Start out, but you will definitely need a full array of wrenches (cone, box, Allen, 

94 Spanner), pliers, tire levers, chain tools, wire cutters, freewheel removers, screwdrivers. 

bike pumps, lubes, etc. You can improvise substitutes for some tools, like using an ad- 
justable wrench to remove pedals, but ideally you should be able to repair an entire bike 
with whatever you've got. Tools, you will discover, especially the specialized tools needed 
to repair a bicycle, are very expensive, which is one reason that most people vnll never 
learn to repair a bike, and will instead continue to rely on bike shops. Coming by these 
tools cheaply is not easy You can hope for generous donors, a miraculous day at the bike 
shop's dumpster, serendipity, an experienced and fearless shoplifter, or whatever form 
of Robin Hood you prefer, but it may turn out to be necessary to buy some things with 
your own money at first— in time, donations your organization receives will probably 
be enough to pay back anyone generous enough to lend some money for start-up costs. 
Such are the laws of karma. 

Luckily, you do not necessarily need bike parts. I say "not necessarily" because if 
you desperately need to cut comers, you can always cannibalize parts from other bikes. 
Keep in mind, however, that this will probably not be very effective on a large scale. If 
you decide to do it when you're just starting out. instead of purchasing [also expensive] 
bike parts, or wheedling them out of someone, make sure that the parts you're taking off 
that old junker are actually safe and functioning pieces. Cracking tires, worn brake pads, 
crusty chains— you're not doing anyone any favors by keeping those parts in circulation! 
Also, if you do this for any length of time you vnll inevitably discover that certain parts 
tend to be wrong more than they are right {rear wheels waffled, cables and chains rusted 
beyond usability, tires dry rotted), and you will end up not fixing a lot of bikes because 
you can't get parts for them. Bike shop dumpsters are good places to look for parts, but 
keep an eye out for tires with shts in them from a careless box cutter, and other common 
ways that parts are damaged— they're probably thrown out for a reason, after all. It may 
just be company policy to discard any returns, no matter how pristine, but safety is an 
important consideration when other people are relying on your services. Also, if there's 

You can establish a "yellow bike" 
program for yourtown: geta bunch 
of cheap bicycles, paint them all an 
ugly yellow color, and leave them 
around town at specified drop off 
points so people can ride them from 
one point to another — voili, free and 
autonomous public transportation] 

Bicycle Collectiues 

a distribution warehouse for bike parts in your area, it may be a good source for gently 
used (or, sometimes, apparently untouched) parts, 

One of the most frustrating aspects of starting a bike collective can be finding a space 
for it. Perhaps it is so frustrating because it doesn't seem like it should be such a stum- 
bling block: it's a big world, after all, and you'd think some small part of it would be 
available to altruistic bike fiends. Generally, though, and especially if you don't have the 
money for renting a space, it can be tough to find one adequate for your needs. You may 
not care if it's indoor space (shelter from rain, vraid, and cold, and a nice concrete floor 
are definitely good things) or outdoor space (mmmmm, sunshine); you don't need fancy, 
and don't mind grungy. You're flexible in so many ways. But you need to be able to access 
it whenever your organization has decided you'U want to use it (no agreeing to share a 
practice space with a band if they're given to interminable jam sessions on your preferred 
work day). Like your contact information, you should try to have semi-permanent plans 
to remain in your space, so don't choose your boyfriend's backyard if he's moving out 
in two months. Obviously, any space will do as a stopgap measure, but if you do things 
right, people wiU be returning to you, so make it as easy for them as you can. You need 
to be able to leave things (bikes, tools, parts, etc.) at that space, and, if it doesn't have a 
locking door, you want to be able to leave things there without having them mysteriously 
vanish during the night (so vacant lots are probably not a good idea). And you need a 
decent amount of space. Nothing is more irritating than being in the middle of some 
complicated, not-quite-mastered repair, and leaning over to pick up a dropped vnrench 
only to bang your head on something. Lots of things on a bike bite, and some bite hard. 
You need to be able to keep a respectfid distance, as biting back is rarely an option. 

A garage or backyard is frequently your best bet: they're free, relatively secure, and 

/ r /^ rt" generally roomy. Grass is nice and cushy, but easy to lose tiny nuts and washers in 

96 (gravel is not cushy at all, and perhaps even worse for losing parts in), so consider us- 

mg a tarp or some other kind of cover for the ground. Try not to alienate landlords and 
neighbors with egregious messiness. Consider the security of the home fronting the 
garage or backyard, as you will be unable to control who hears of and comes to the prop- 
erty, and need to be respectful of the needs of the people who are so generously offering 
the space (even if it's just you and your housemates) . 

Those are tlie basics. Other needs wiU come up as you go along, and you will be alter- 
nately amazed and appalled by people's generosity and selfishness. Some people includ- 
ing some of your friends, will look at your coUective as merely a place to get free shit 
and some wiU join the ranks of its selfless and dedicated members. When you spend 
a grueling day repairing bicycles for 53 howling children at a local community center, 
your exhaustion will be eased somewhat by the sight of 36 of them swooping around the 
parkmg lot, still shrieking, on their newly repaired bikes. But you'M probably still have 
a headache. You will feel a flush of pride when you repair your flrst headset, and then 
shudder mside when you remember fliat you still need to learn how to true a wheel You 
may see no decrease in the number of cars on the road, but you will start seeing bikes 
that you recognize locked up outside the local grocery store, or at shows, or passing you 
in town. Then you can quit for good and let your minions continue your work. 

We started our bike collective in the summer of 2000, choosing at first the name The 
People's Bike Stop. The Marxist overtones were no longer cute after a while so we 
changed our name. Tliere were five of us initiaUy: some who had big ideas about dis- 
tributing bikes to children from low-income families, some with bike shop or collective 
experience, some with vague allegiances to a shared worldview and others with strong 
opinions and commitment. I myself had only learned the year before how to repair inner 
tubes and adjust brake pads. We set out a mission statement that we have rarely looked 
at since, as it appeared fliat we largely shared the same vision, and agreed that having 


Bicycle Colleaives 

Bicycle Coiiectives 

an organized structure was way more professional than we were ready to be. We were 
willing to miss out on grants and other benefits of a more codified approach in order to 
try to avoid hierarchies and power struggles and other attendant hazards. (Some of that 
might also have been laziness.) We have also decided that the logistics of maintaining a 
yellow bike program would be too much for our small organization to handle unless we 
had no interest in doing anything else. While it's a fine idea, it's not something we've 
found a way to fit into our plans at this point. 

Bicycles came from various places. Our first big haul was picking up the remains afi:er 
a campus bike auction — needless to say, that method left us with a lot of useless junk, 
but it was an exhilarating start. In a short time, bikes and tubs of parts overwhelmed the 
tiny backyard in which we were working. In our area, the college population generously 
provides a large number of neglected bikes, and we also get lots of old three- and ten- 
speeds. The mountain bikes are the ones that find homes the fastest, although they tend 
to be lower-quality department store bikes, and their fat tires are inefficient for standard 
around-town and commuting purposes. 

One of us financed much of our first couple of years out of his pocket, and was even- 
tually paid back. We started working with community centers and battered women's 
shelters, fixing up and giving out bikes for the kids that lived there. To the general pub- 
lic, we gave away bikes and repairs in exchange for labor and half-hearted attempts to 
learn how to do some repairs. We were, and still are, pretty lenient about this: we have 
discussed the possibility of applying for non-profit status, writing up "prices" (hours 
worked, perhaps) for a list of repairs and other services, and a number of other recurring 
issues, but we never have. We generally inform anyone that isn't wiUing to work v^dth us 
for a bike that we charge $50, which helps us make back some cash, but that is a pretty 
small number of people. We have also traded bikes for stickers that we use to track the 
bicycles we repair, and for food and other useful things. The real vidndfall for us came 

when a local bike shop agreed to sponsor us with a decent yearly contribution, enough 
to get us some tools and parts, which enabled us to expand our efforts. 

We spread the bike gospel on the local television channel. We had articles written 
about us in the paper. We rafHed a bike at a local film festival. We moved to a bigger back- 
yard. It was the fucking American Dream. Next, we hope to acquire a two-car garage! 

We also gave away all our Saturdays, Our core group of members, while people have 
come and gone, remains at a constant four to five people. It has sometimes appeared 
that we were going to be left with few committed members, a couple of unfortunates 
desperately trying to get everything under control, but that hasn't happened yet. We have 
distributed more than 450 bikes in the past four years, and we have throvwi out what 
feels like ten thousand rusty Murrays and Huffys, I don't feel like a bike collective is a 
way to accomplish big things: for that, you will need lobbyists or molotov cocktails, and 
lots of time. But bike collectives can accomplish very concrete things, even if they're 
small. I hope that we can claim some responsibility for the bike racks at the local co-op 
always being crowded. And if a couple dozen people now patch their own inner tubes 
rather than paying a bike shop $15 to do it, well, then that's enough for me. 

Bicycle Collectiues 

Bicycle Parades 

Ingredients B i cyc le s 


Instructions Perhaps you're familiar with Critical Mass, the Food Not Bombs of bicycle parades. In or 
out of that context, the bicycle parade format has much to recommend it. Bicycles offer 
a legal opportunity to establish a presence in the street; in contrast to cars, they're much 
cheaper, don't automatically reveal their owners' identities, represent a participatory and 
environmentally friendly technology, and create an atmosphere of togetherness, since 
riders are not separated from one another or those around them by metal and glass. A 
group mounted on bicycles can take up a lot more space than the same number of pe- 
destrians, and usually makes for a more impressive spectacle; they can also move much 
more quickly together or when it's time to disperse. Bicycle parades are flexible: they 
can be festive or confrontational, or switch back and forth between the two. A bicycle 
parade can bring together locals for a fun community event, or draw attention to a par- 
ticular issue {local transportation policies, global environmental concerns, the crushing 
monotony of city life), or interfere directly vrith something objectionable by serving as a 
slow-moving barricade — or provide a blank canvas to which each participant can bring 
her owm intentions. Last but not least, riding bicycles is^n. 

Following the Critical Mass model, some cities host regular bicycle parades on a given 
100 day of every month, leaving from a well-known destination. Lacking this infrastructure 

or desmng to forego it, you can promote a bicycle parade by stapling fliers around the 
handlebars of bicycles parked around town, stickering or marking on anything bicycles 
are often locked to {or anything bicyclists often visit— say, a popular grocery dumpster) 
or postering at bicycle shops. If the police in your area have repressive tendencies and 
you don't want them to show up and ruin the atmosphere by limiting your movements 
or threatening participants, avoid putting up fliers where they will see them. If police 
show up before the event with the intention to control it, they will probably succeed, but 
a single officer who discovers a parade already in progress may be powerless to stop it 

Make things exciting. Unusual bicycles— home-welded double-decker bicycles or 
"choppers" with exaggerated front wheels, for example— are always a hit. Bicycle traUers 
can carry everything from small children to sound systems. To identify your purpose 
to the world, string a banner between two bicycles; this might make the most sense in 
the back of the parade, where it can be read by motorists behind you and discourage 
them from driving forward into the mass of cyclists. Musical instruments and other 
noisemakers attract attention and keep things cheery-when cars trapped behind your 
parade honk their horns, join in with a chorus of bicycle bells and whisfles, reframing 
frustration as affirmation. A parade of costumed bicyclists or, better, bicycle floats is 
perfect for Halloween-or any other day of the year. Have handouts for pedestrians and 
drivers stuck in traffic. Keep these accessible and positive: one Critical Mass bicyclist in 
my hometown used to pass out oranges with pro-bicycle messages written on them. 

Bofli your route and your method of determining it wih depend on your goals. Your 
parade could lead to the site of a party or festival; it could wander according to the collec- 
tive whims of the participants; it could be secretly plotted in advance by a rotating cabal 
of strategists. A bicycle parade can pass through a neighborhood, or interact with rush- 
hour traffic; it can take over a highway, or even storm through a shopping mall Well-at- 
tended, long-standing Critical Mass groups have often determined tactics and policies 'of' '"'"'"' 

by "xerocracy": everyone who has an idea hands out fliers promoting her suggestion, 
and decisions are determined by a kind of de facto consensus. 

Regardless of your approach, there are some general rules of thumb that can help to 
keep a bunch of bicyclists safe in car territory. You'll see a lot of dangerous, stupid driv- 
ing in the course of the average bicycle parade. First, stay close together, so you present 
a mass rather than a string of individuals; the ones chiefly responsible for this are the 
bicyclists in the very front, who have to set a pace slow enough for the slowest of the 
others. The most impatient, impetuous cyclists tend to end up in front, so don't be shy 
about passing messages ("slow down! tighten up!") up to them from elsewhere in the 
mass. Don't let gaps that might tempt motorists open up anywhere. When there are two 
lanes of traffic, it's actually safer to block both, so you don't have a hne of cars whizzing 
carelessly by you on one side. The most level-headed riders should probably stay at the 
very back and sides of the mass, as this is where confrontations with moronic drivers 
can take place; don't engage in verbal sparring, don't act superior, let your self-assurance 
and obstructive presence be your revenge on insulting motorists. It's often best to ride 
through red lights en masse, so they don't break up your group or interfere vnXh your 
mission; while passing through an intersection, the aforesaid level-headed riders should 
pause at the sides of the mass, their bicycles and bodies blocking cars from driving into 
the others. Assuming you and your cohorts are proponents of public transportation, you 
may want to let city buses (not to mention ambulances) pass you, being careful to fill 
in the space behind them immediately so other cars don't attempt to charge through it. 
Finally, routes should be determined with the needs of all participants in mind: if they 
are too long or strenuous, or obscure enough to get people lost, they're no good. 

You may want to make plans for breaking up (deliberately or not) and regrouping, 
g. ^1^ Parades Riders with cell phones can keep up with one another to organize this; alternatively, you 
102 can designate in advance points at which to reconvene. 

The police will inevitably demand that you tell them who is in charge; "no one" or 
"everyone" are tried and true answers, though you can also buy time if need be by saying 
you don't know but you'll try to find out, or promising to present their orders to the "cen- 
tral committee" to whom you all answer. If you have a regular ride and they start making 
things hard for you, surprise them with an unannounced ride to show who's boss. Don't 
let them intimidate you with fines or other legal harassment— if you know sympathetic 
lawyers, have them help you beat these in court; if you're more the disobedient type, ride 
in costume or incognito and don't stop to answer questions or receive tickets. You're not 
blocking traffic, you are traffic, right? 

Another ridiculous oil war had started, just in time for our monthly bicycle ride. Owing 
to the lovely spring weather and the indignation of local radicals and— let's call a spade 
a spade — borderline liberals, we had a high turnout for our small college tovra: perhaps 
fifty bicyclists. We gathered at our usual spot in front of the post office; one of us had 
brought a banner ("no blood or oil"), which was jerry-rigged between two bicycles by 
means of somebody's shoelace. There were two police waiting at our convergence point, 
but somehow they lost tiack of us once we got going on our usual route; Critical Mass 
had a long history already in this town, and with police ticketing, legal struggles, positive 
and negative publicity, and the inexorable slide toward predictable routine already years 
behind us, they'd come to tolerate our fairly tame monthly rides. 

This one was destined to be different, however. Some of us locals were determined 
that there be no business as usual while the war was on, and there were also some travel- 
ing kids in attendance, one of whom had a boombox slung over his handlebars blasting 
'80s metal, who were willing to take things further and had the advantage of not being 
known by local law enforcement. 


Bicycle Parades 

As we moved, individual conversations took place about what our route should be. 
Near the customary halfway point of our ride, we all pulled into a parking lot, and 
someone called out the question. A couple of people suggested we head to the state 
highway, and after minimal deliberation we were off, one of us tooting a trumpet, oth- 
ers ringing bells. 

There was a stoplight at the main access point to this highway, and we took advan- 
tage of it to get onto it in a mass, blocking both lanes; had there not been a stoplight, 
it would have been extremely dangerous to get on the highway with cars speeding at 
us from behind. As it was, we were on the area's main artery at rush hour, blocking it 
entirely and moving at a snail's pace. A vast line of cars immediately backed up behind 
us, some stoically accepting the inconvenient consequences of living in a Hberal com- 
munity while others leaned on their horns and screamed. The police, strangely, were 
nowhere to be seen yet. 

Over the following minutes, things became more and more tense at the back of our 
group, as a couple of particularly belligerent motorists exchanged threats and recrimina- 
tions with the similarly hotheaded bicyclists bearing the banner. Suddenly, as the next 
exit appeared in the distance ahead of us, there was a commotion at the back of our 
party, followed by a screeching of wheels. Two SUVs drove right into the middle of our 
group. People leaped out of the way in terror as the vehicles swerved unpredictably. The 
one in firont struck one of us from the side, knocking him off his bicycle, and then bore 
down directly on a volunteer at our local bicycle repair collective. He leaped from his 
bicycle at the last instant, out of the way of the SUV, which plowed right over the bicycle, 
catching it and dragging it forward in a stream of sparks. A split second later, the thud of 
crunching glass rang out; the back windows of the SUV had been broken with bicycle U- 
Bicvcle Parades locks. The vehicle swerved again, pulling up crazily on the grass median in the middle 
104 of the highway, and zoomed off down the exit ramp, followed by the other SUV 

It was all over in a few seconds, but it took several more for us to take stock of what 
had happened. The injuries of the person who had been struck were minor, but his bi- 
cycle was unrideable and the other one had been reduced to a twisted hunk of roadldlled 
metal. Dragging these, and providing emotional and physical support to the ones who 
had nearly been run over, we made our way even more slowly to the off- ramp. There, at 
the bottom of it, we saw the two SUVs stopped, along with a few police cars. 

We paused at the side of the highway to figure out what to do, permitting the rest of 
the traffic to pass us. All the drivers that had waited behind us and seen what had hap- 
pened now waved, cheered, honked, even made hand gestures signifying "peace" or 
"victory" — ^fhey had witnessed the brutish behavior of the first two drivers, and it had 
won us their sympathy and support. 

We made a few mistakes at this point. We were in a vulnerable position, and needed 
to decide quickly what to do, but in our confusion and lack of organization, we bogged 
down trying to make a group decision while a couple of us went to speak to the police. The 
kids from out of town, feeling at risk and fearing police surveillance now that a crime had 
arguably been committed, decided after a couple of minutes to ride ahead along the side 
of the highway to the next exit and make their getaway from there; this they succeeded in 
doing without complications. Some really foolish questions were asked by inexperienced 
people vidth no sense of security culture (see Security Culture, pg. 461 — please!) about who 
had broken the windows of the SUV, but these questions were swiftly dismissed. It came 
out that the bicycle that had been destroyed had been a free one from the local bicycle col- 
lective (see preceding Bicycle CoHectiues, too!), so the main cost to us was in shock. 

Meanwhile, the report from the police was that though the murderous SUV driver 
had announced that he wanted to press charges, he had come across even to the police 
officers as such a dangerous lunatic that for the time being they were simply concentrat- Bicvde Parades 
ing on keeping him and us separated. We took advantage of this confusion to make our 105 

way back into town, and finally stopped to discuss the situation. Some of us wanted to 
press charges against the drivers, while others doubted that the legal system could ever 
be used to our advantage; no charges were ever filed from either side, as it turned out. 

Many of us were freaked out by the experience of danger — few had been ready for 
such risk, and in retrospect we should have at least been better prepared psychologi- 
cally before we took to the highway — ^but we were also catalyzed by it, shaken out of the 
routine into which our Critical Mass had fallen. We decided to have another ride the 
very next week, and that one was as thickly attended as any had been in years. There 
was a police officer there, who insisted he was there to "protect us," a justification the 
department had used before for sending police with us who then attempted to herd us, 
threaten us, and charge us with traffic violations; deliberately playing dumb, we reas- 
sured him over and over that, though he was new to the Mass, we would be sure to pro- 
tect him. He was so demoralized by this that he eventually left! This time, we rode the 
opposite direction through town, taking over the main street and demanding as much 
attention as we had on the highway but at less risk. We gave out fliers all along the way 
about the behavior of the motorists the week before, and what it indicated about the kind 
of people who drive SUVs and support imperialist wars— and the people who got the 
fliers, some of whom had heard about it already, were sympathetic and receptive. 

Hanging out at the local organic food co-op after that ride, we discovered that in the 
wake of our misadventure a local liberal who had long ago ridden with Critical Mass was 
trying to get a motion passed that would allocate a police escort to every ride. With some 
effort, he was talked out of this, on the grounds that it wasn't anyone's business to make 
decisions that would have permanent implications for Critical Mass in our town. This 
was the last of the aftermath of our brief takeover of the highway Things certainly woidd 
Bicycle Parades ^^^^ played out much differently in a less Hberal town, but you always have to tailor your 
106 approach to the local environment. 

Painting by Bicycle 

This is a recipe for leaving trails of paint on streets and sidewalks. These can lead to 
buried treasure or secret rendezvous points, chart surprise parade routes, or outline 
figures and characters that can only be made out by people willing to track the trails on 
a map — ^believe us, it happens! 

Bicycle bucket 




Standard-size milk crate 


Waterproof giue 

Cable ties 



Cork or plumbing valve 



I. Get a bucket. 1 found a great one — the same diameter as tiie standard five-gallon, but 
shorter. You can use a five-gallon bucket and cut it down to a reasonable size, but you'll 
have to find a way to seal the top so paint doesn't slosh out. Remember to poke a small 
hole in the lid so a vacuum won't build up. 

2. Cut a square block from the two-by-four. 

3. Slather the top of the block with a generous helping of waterproof glue — construc- 
tion adhesive will work nicely {figure j.i). 



Painting by Bicycle 

4. Fasten the block to a flat place in the bottom of the 
bucket, off-center, by screwing through the inside of the 
bucket into the block {figure ^.2). Drill pilot holes to avoid 
splitting the wood, and use washers so the screw heads 
won't pop through the plastic. 

5. Get some tubing. After a lot of trial and error, we set- 
tled on white plastic tubing that was flexible but hard. We 
got it in the plumbing section. A half-inch inside diameter 
provides a good rate of flow — producing a stream of paint 
about a quarter-inch wide when you bicycle at approxi- 
mately seven miles per hour — ^but you could go bigger. 

6. Drill a hole in the bottom of the bucket, through the 
center of the block of wood. The hole should be the same 
diameter as the outside of the tubing you have chosen. 

7. Use coarse sand paper or a rasp to rough up the sur- 
face on the outside of the top two inches of your tube. 

8. Coat the inside of the hole and the outside of the tube 
with plenty of waterproof glue, using a brand that sticks to plastic and wood. Stick the 
tube into the hole until it is flush with the inside of the bucket ifigure j.j). Let this dry 
thoroughly before you move it. 

9. Mount a milk crate very securely to your bike rack. Cut out a part of the bottom of 
the crate to accommodate the block and tube. A five-gaUon bucket fits perfectly in most 
milk crates. Attach the bucket to the crate firmly — ^paint is heavy! 

10. Use cable ties to fasten the tube in place. We fastened a steel rod to the seat-stay to 
guide the tube to just above street level and hold it firmly behind where the back wheel 
touched the road (/igwre 3.4). 

11. Your savage street smarts should tell you not to start or finish your line right in 
front of your secret hideout. Stop up the end of the tube with a custom-shaped cork or 
piece of rubber; you should duct-tape the cork into place, because all that paint will ap- 
ply a lot of pressure. If you feel tricky, add a plumbing valve to the end of the tube — of 
course there's one made to fit your tubing. If you really want to impress, make a control 
for it that allows you to stop and start the flow on the fly. 

12. Paint the tube black and do something to disguise the bucket. Make it look like a 
bag of groceries with celery and French rolls sticking out. 

13. Use any old paint you can get. Stores have mis-mixed paint for cheap. Many cities 
maintain an old paint exchange, because it is so expensive to dispose of it. Take out a 
classified ad asking for paint donations for your art class. If the paint you get isn't brand 
new, mix it well and filter it through panty hose — otherwise, gummy paint and dried 
bits will clog your tube immediately. 

Since completing the testing and development for the original version of this recipe, 
we've discovered that one can easily dumpster multi-gallon detergent containers that 
have a built-in spigot at the foot of one side; these might offer quite a shortcut. Come to 
think of it, you can get water in similar containers, though those are generally transpar- 
ent and perhaps less durable. 

Low'tech pedestrian re-mix: pierce the bottom and top of a can of paint with a large nail, 
and — quick! — go for a walk. 

The street arrived as a liquid; it was poured and mashed into place. Asphalt may seem 
solid, but it yields, Hstens, and records. Here, parallel black streaks run past a stophght 
and into the intersection; it's a recording of tires screeching between some moment of 
refiex and impact. Someone died here and it was noted with a smudge of rubber — ^un- 
less I'm reading it wrong and he just peeled out in a blaze of glory. Over here the asphalt 


Painting by Bicycle 

is ripped open by a weed with a tiny flower screaming, "Orange!" There is a splash of 
windshield in the gutter, and a slick greenish stain; when cars get hurt, they bleed. And 
just a few feet away^ — ^thanks to that speed bump, a gallon bucket must have tipped over 
in the back of a painter's truck. Now a thin triclde of robin's egg blue follows her halfway 
home forever. We follow, too, until the trail turns to drips and vanishes. "It's a starting 
point," we think. 

Six days later, we are perched proudly on our own writing implements, a little fleet of 
bicycles carefully designed to leak paint. On a map of Montreal, we have drawn human 
figures, the ouflines following streets and sidewalks; from the map, we've converted our 
dravwngs into written directions, and in following these we drip out drawings ten and 
fifteen kilometers long. 

An hour into our second picture, we are overtaken by flashing lights. Oh shit! We 
double back onto a side road then roll into the safety of a litfle park. Only then do we see 
that our pursuer was a truck, a truck painting lines! Hearts in our throats, we watch the 
groaning beast lay down a thick yellow no-passing zone. It is a river beside our trickles 
of yellow, red, and blue, but we are unabashed. Everyone works at the scale they can 
afford; tonight, we spare no expense. 

Painting by Bicycle 


How to Make a Record Player fiom a BicycIc 

There are hundreds of ways to make a bicycle into a record player, just as there are hun- 
dreds of items that can be turned into record players. For that matter, you can turn just 
about anything into just about anything else— just think about what they've done with 
soybeans. Please take this recipe as an example of how to cash in your suspicions of an 
object's constructed identity. 

We made our record player during a thinktank. You can read about thinktanks in this 
book too. We had quite a time figuring this all out and we wouldn't want to take that op- 
portunity away from you. Also, a step-by-step guide would be absurdly long and boring, 
not to mention unadventurous to follow. Instead, we will start with the basic concept 
and move on to a few specific aspects of our design. With the fundamentals in mind, 
you can get busy on anything wdthin reach. 

When I was twelve, my friend David demonstrated something to me; you should try it 
too. He pinned a needle into a piece of paper as if it were a lapel, so the sharp end ex- 
tended past one edge of the paper. He turned his record player on and, holding the paper 
up, allowed the needle to drag gently in a groove. Led Zeppelin II rose faintly but clearly 
out of the piece of paper. I was dumbfounded. 

But there's nothing too crazy about it. If you want to talk about crazy, crazy is get- 
ting sound off a compact disc! A record is analog. In the case of a record, analog means 
that the texture inside the groove fluctuates the same way air molecules moved in the 


Field Notes 

Make a Bicycle into a Record Player 


recording studio when the music was played, and the same way your eardrum vibrates 
when you hear the sound. The surface of the record is the texture of the sound. The only 
trick is making the leap from one medium to the next. The needle David used was tiny 
enough to fit inside the groove. The paper it was stuck into had enough surface area to 
put those vibrations into contact wdth enough air that it would be audible. Simple shit. 
Fifteen years later a good friend and I locked ourselves in an abandoned ofRce with 
food, water, a shit bucket, tools, Zegota's first record (with "Bike Song," natch), and, of 
course, a bicycle. With the latching of the door, we vowed not to leave the room until 
we had played that song on the bicycle. We could try this because we knew any piece of 
paper and any needle could make it possible. Our job was simply to make a machine 
that could turn the record at a steady speed and an apparatus to hold the needle in the 
groove while the record turned. 

Our speaker cone was made of paper and glue. A standard sewing needle was pinned 
into the end of the cone and superglued in place. The angle between the needle and 
record surface was around 45 degrees. 

Our record player was vertical This made the weight of our paper cone easier to deal 
with, because most of it was supported by a hook. The cone was further supported by a 
few stabiHzing threads that prevented it from flopping to one side or another. 

We made a Masonite platter, which we attached to the wheel of the bike with threaded 
rods, nuts, and washers. We used another threaded rod as the center post. We kept the 
record in place using a vnng nut and washer. 

We isolated the hand-crank apparatus from the turntable and cone by building the 
record player in two parts. We decided on separation because in our first attempt the 
vibration and jiggle caused by hand cranking made the record skip. After splitting the 
machine in two, the crank side could be wobbly and the record side would still spin 

clean. We connected the two halves with a thin rubber belt. The pulley on the crank side 
was fabricated from scraps; the pulley on the record side was a 27" bicycle wheel with 
no tire. We made the belt from thin strips of inner tube. 

At first, the belt had trouble staying in the trough of the pulleys. It would gradually 
cHmb up the side and jump over the edge. We solved this problem by sewing the flat belt 
into a tube. 

Gearing the machine was important. We wanted to be able to turn the pedal at a com- 
fortable speed and still have the turntable going approximately 33 1/3 RPM. It turns out 
that is a really slow speed for a hand to turn. That's why we used such a big pulley with 
such a small pulley. We coupled the 27" front wheel with a 10" pulley that we cobbled to- 
gether from scraps and fixed to the bottom bracket where we took off the other crank. 

Being made of bike parts, the entire drive train weighed very little. That seemed good 
at first, but it wasn't. Low mass means low inertia, so the record could change speeds 
quickly in response to slight changes in cranking speed. To add mass, we ran a chain 
from our crank pulley to the sprockets on the back wheel. We froze the sprockets in 
place, as on a fixed-gear track bike, so the back wheel fimctioned as a flywheel. The fly- 
wheel smoothed out the inconsistent power of hand cranking, making the pitch easier 
to control. It also allowed you to stop cranking for a moment or change hands without 
too much drop in pitch. 

You might break through this technological barrier, but we found that old records 
played louder and tracked better than new records. This is because the groves are deeper 
and more widely spaced. 

Make a Bicycle into a Record Player 

Billboard Improvement 

Instructions Short Version: Get some paint (see Graffiti, pg. 258 j or posters and wheatpaste (see 
Wheatpasting, pg. 598 j and alter advertisements in public places to be more honest or 
at least humorous. This is not all that complicated; don't be intimidated by the more 
comprehensive instructions that follow. They are for those wishing to take this strategy 
to new heights of precision and visibility. 

Selecting a Billboard 

* From "'Do you know where you're 

going?' -God" to "Do you know where 

you're going? Co, "for example. 


In choosing a sign, keep in mind that the most effective alterations are often the sim- 
plest. If you can totally change the meaning of an advertisement by changing one or two 
letters, you'll save a lot of time and trouble." Some ads lend themselves to parody by the 
inclusion of a small image or symbol in the appropriate place — a skull, radiation sym- 
bol, happy face, swastika, vibrator. On other boards, the addition of a cartoon thought 
bubble or speech balloon for one of the characters might be all that is needed. 

Once you have identified a billboard message you wish to improve, you may want to 
see if there are multiple locations displaying the same advertisement. You should deter- 
mine which ones give your message optimum visibility. A board on a central freeway 
will obviously give you more exposure than one on an obscure side street. You must 

then weigh the visibility factor against other crucial variables such as physical accessi- 
bility, potential escape routes, and volume of foot and vehicular traffic during optimum 
alteration hours. Of course, if you can improve more than one board in the same cam- 
paign, so much the better. In a really coordinated effort, the materials and skills for a 
given alteration could be distributed to affinity groups, and all the billboards displaying 
a certain advertisement could be revised one night. 

There are several standard sign types in the outdoor advertising industry. Knowing 
which type of sign you are about to alter may prove useful in planning the operation: 

Bulletins are large outdoor sign structures, typically situated alongside federal high- 
ways and major urban freeways. They measure 14' x 48' and are usually leased in multi- 
month contracts, meaning that an advertisement will stay in place for at least 60 days. 
30-Sheet Poster Panels measure 12' x 25', are situated along primary and secondary 
roadways, and are usually updated every 30 days. 

8-Sheet Poster Panels measure 6' x 12' and are usually found in high-density urban 
neighborhoods and suburban shopping areas. They are designed to reach both pedes- 
trian and vehicular traffic, and are leased in 30 -day increments. 

Out-of-Home Media is the industry term for advertising targeted at people on the go, 
including bus shelters, the sides of buses and tops of taxis, subway stations, street fiir- 
niture (newsstands, benches, kiosks), painted walls, and "indoor out of home" locations 
like airports and malls. 

There are of course many non-standard formats as well, and these frequently make 
the most intriguing targets. Oversized bulletins, animated signs, painted buildings, and 
boards with neon all offer unique challenges for advanced operations. Signs featuring 
large, illuminated text can often be improved simply by turning off a few letters. 

In choosing a target, consider how long the advertisement has been up, so you don't 
end up modifying a billboard the day before it is scheduled to be replaced anyway. ^,fs Improvement 

Planning the Improvement 

Billboard lmproi>ement 

A) Accessibility. How do you get up on the board? Will you need your own ladder to reach 
the bottom of the board's ladder? Can you climb the support structure? Is the board 
on a building rooftop, and if so, can it be reached from within the building, from a fire 
escape, or perhaps from an adjoining building? If you need ladders to work the board, 
they may occasionally be found on platforms on or behind the board, or on adjacent 
boards or rooftops. 

B) Practicality. How big are the letters and/or images you would like to change? How 
close to the platform at the bottom of the board is your work area? On larger boards you 
can rig from above and hang over the face to reach points that are too high to reach from 
below. We don't recommend this method unless you have some climbing and rigging 
experience. When hanging in one position your work area is very limited laterally. Your 
ability to leave the scene quicHy diminishes in proportion to how convoluted your posi- 
tion has become. Placing huge words or images is much more difficult. 

C) Security. After choosing your board, be sure to inspect it, both during the day and 

at night. Take note of all activities in the area. Who is around at two a.m.? How visible 
will you be while scaling the support structure? Keep in mind you will make noise; are 
there any apartment or office windows nearby? Is anyone home? Walk lightly if you're 
on a rooftop — who knows over whom you're walking. 

What is the visibility to passing cars on surface streets and freeways? What can you 
see from your work position on the board? Even though it is very difficult to see a figure 
on a dark board at night, it is not impossible. Any point to which you have line-of-sight 
vision is a point from which you can be observed. How close is your board to the nearest 
police station or highway patrol headquarters? What is their patrol pattern in the area, 
what is the average response time to Joe Citizen's call? You can get an idea by staking out 
the area and observing. Is it quiet at night or is there a lot of foot tiaffic?When the bars 

let out, will this provide cover — i.e., drunks keeping the cops busy — or will it increase 
the likelihood of detection by passersby? Will people care? If you are definitely spotted, it 
may pay to have your ground crew approach the observers rather than just hoping they 
don't call the cops. Do not let them connect you with a vehicle. Have your ground crew 
pretend to be chance passersby in order to monitor their reactions. We've been spotted 
at work a number of times, and most people were amused. You'll find that most people, 
including officials, don't look up unless given a reason to do so. 

Go up on the board prior to your hit. Get a feeling for being there and moving around 
on the structure at night. Bring a camera— it's a good cover for doing anything you're 
not supposed to: "Gee, officer, I'm a night photographer, and there's a great shot of the 
bridge from up here ..." Check your escape routes. Can you cross over rooftops and 
leave by a fire escape across the block.^ 

D) Illumination. Most boards are brightly lit by floodlights of some type. Most large 
boards are shut off some time between ii:oo p.m. and 2:00 a.m. by a time clock control 
somewhere on or near the board. Smaller boards frequently are controlled by photo- 
electric cells or conventional time docks, also somewhere on the board. If you find the 
photoelectric cell, you can turn the lights on the board off by taping a small flashlight 
directly into the cell's "eye." This fools the unit into thinking it is daytime and shutting 
off the lights. 

As noted, most larger boards are controlled by time clocks. These can be found in the 
control panels at the base of the support structure or behind the board itself These pan- 
els are often locked, particularly those at the structure's base. Unless you are familiar 
with energized electrical circuitry, we caution you to wait until the clock shuts itself off 
at midnight or so. Many of these boards run 220 volts and could fry you to a crisp. 

E) Daytime Hits. We don't recommend this method for most high boards on or near 

You can get solar panels to power 
your own projects from solar-powered 
billboard lighting systems. 

Billboard Improvement 


freeways and major roads. It works well for doing smaller boards lower to the ground 
where the alteration is relatively quick and simple. If you do choose to work in the light, 
wear coveralls (company name on the back?) and painters' hats, and work quicldy. Keep 
an eye out for parked or passing vehicles bearing the billboard company's or advertiser's 
name, as well as police cars. Each board has the company emblem at its bottom center. 

Producing Graphic Oi^erlays 

Billboard Improvement 

Though powerful improvements are occasionally executed wdth nothing more than a 
spray can and a sharp wit, some actions require the production of some type of graphic 
overlay to alter the board's message. The more professional these overlays look, the 
greater the impact your modified ad is likely to have on the public. This is not to say that 
every hit needs to look exactly like an original — that would be prohibitively expensive 
for most groups. While technical competence is a worthy goal to pursue, the success or 
failure of your alteration wiU ultimately depend more on the quality of your thinking 
and the power of your altered message than on how well you can match a font. 

A) Choosing a Production Method. Before you get too deep into the design process, you 
need to decide how the overlays will be produced. If you're lucky enough to have access 
to commercial sign-printing equipment, you can go the professional route and opt for 
industry-standard vinyl. Vinyl overlays are strong, light, easy to transport, and easy to 
apply — ^but unless you have an industry insider on your team, they will probably be too 
expensive to produce. If you or a collaborator have late-night access to the facilities of a 
commercial printer, neighborhood copy shop, or advertising bureau, you may be able to 
output your overlays on a large-format color printer or plotter. 

Printing on paper nearly always requires a process known as "tiling" — cutting the im- 
age up into smaller pieces that are then reassembled into a whole. With some popular 
computer programs you can perform this function automatically, by selecting the "Til- 

ing" option from the Print menu. If you don't have access to a wide-track printer, try to 
locate a machine that can handle ii"x 17" tabloid-sized paper: the bigger your printer's 
output, the fewer pieces you'll have to tile back together to create a finished overlay. Most 
neighborhood copy shops and many corporate offices now have color printers and copi- 
ers with II "x 17" output. 

For low cost and maximum durability, consider canvas. When impregnated with oil- 
based lacquer paint, a canvas overlay has the potential to last longer than the sign sur- 
face to which it is affixed. It is heavier to carry and more difficult to secure to the sign, 
but it is a reliable, low-tech alternative that can be implemented inexpensively 

We don't recommend using overlays much larger than 4'x 3'. If your message is 
larger, you should section it and butt the sections together for the finished image. It gets 
very windy on boards, and large paste-overs are difficult to apply. 

B) Scale. If you are changing only a small area— a few letters, a small symbol— you 
probably do not need to go to any elaborate lengths to match or design your "overlay," 
the finished image/lettering you'll be applying to the board. Just take actual measure- 
ments or tracings directly off the board. If, however, you intend to create overlays of 
great size and/or number of letters and you want the finished image to look as much 
as possible like the advertisers themselves had made it, you should plan on more elabo- 
rate preparation. Find a position roughly level with the board and looking at it square 
on, between 200' and 1000' away Photograph the board from this position and make 
a tracing from a large print of the photo. Using measurements you have taken on the 
board {height, width, letter height, etc.), you can create a scale drawing of your intended 
alteration. From this, it will be possible to determine how large your overlays will need 
to be and what spacing will be required between letters. 

Billboard Improvement 

C) Color Matching. There are two basic ways to match the background and colors of 
the lettering or image area: 

1. On painted or paper boards you can usually carve a small (i"x i") sample di- 
rectly off the board. This does not always work on older painted boards that have 
many thick layers of paint. 

2. Most large paint stores carry small paint sampler books. It is possible to get a 
pretty close match from these samplers. We suggest sticking to solid colors and 
relatively simple designs for m^mum visual impact. 

D) Letter Style. If you wish to match a letter style exactly, pick up a book of fonts from 
a graphic arts store or borrow one from a self-serve print shop. Use this in conjunction 
vdth tracings of existing letters to create the complete range of lettering needed for your 
alteration. You can convincingly fake letters that aren't on the board by finding a closely 
matching letter style in the book and using tracings of letters from your photo of the 
board as a guide for drawing the new letters. 

E) Producing Overlays Prom Computer Output. Computers with desktop publishing 
software offer many advantages to the modern billboard liberator. Fonts and colors can 
be matched precisely, professional-looking graphical elements can be added to your text 
message, and scale and spacing become much easier to calculate. 

After you have designed the overlay and printed out your tiles, you'll need to assemble 
the individual printouts jigsaw-style and glue them onto some sort of backing material. 
Heavy pattern paper works best for this, but you can also use i/8-inch foamcore for over- 
lays less than 30 inches on a side. Start in one corner, adhering the first tile vidth spray 
adhesive to the backing material. Carefully assemble the rest of the tHes, trimming off 
Billboard Imarovement unprinted margin space as required and laying them down one at a time, making sure 
120 all the edges are well-secured. If you get a little off-ldlter at some point in the process and 

the pieces don't line up with absolute precision, don't worry— large-scale work is more 
forgiving, since people will be viewing it at a distance. When all the tiles are secured, 
reinforce the edges with clear packing tape. If it's going to be a wet night, or if there's a 
chance your work may stay up for a few days or more, consider weather-proofing your 
overlay with a coat of clear lacquer. 

F) Tiling With a Photocopier. If you don't have access to a computer with desktop 
publishing software, but do have access to a good copy machine, you can duplicate the 
procedure described above using the copier's "enlarge" function. First, create a scale 
original of your overlay on a single sheet of paper. Next, pencil a grid over your drawing, 
with each section being proportionate to the largest size of paper the copier can accom- 
modate {letter, legal, tabloid, etc.). Cut the original into pieces along the penciled lines, 
then enlarge each piece on the copier, going through as many generations as necessary 
until each piece fills its own sheet of paper. Assemble the pieces as described above, 
adding color with lacquer paints or permanent markers. Weatherproof if desired. Some 
photocopying franchises feature machines for making large-scale photocopies, up to 
four feet wide and an unlimited length. 

G) Producing Overlays hy Hand. We recommend using heavy pattern paper and high- 
gloss, oil-based lacquer paints. The lacquer paint suffiises the paper, making it tough, 
water resistant, and difficult to tear. To make overlays, roller coat the background and 
spray paint the lettering through stencil templates of the letters. For extremely large 
images or panels, use large pieces of painted canvas. The canvas should be fairly heavy 
so it won't be ripped to shreds by the winds that buffet most billboards. Glue and staple 
i"x4" pine boards the entire horizontal lengths of the top and bottom of the canvas. The 
canvas will then roll up like a carpet for transportation and can be unrolled over the top 
of the board and lowered into place by ropes. 

Billboard Improuemeni 


'' A chalk snap line is a string suffused 
with chalk dust; stretched between 
two points, pulled back, and snapped 
against the surface between them, it 
leaves a line of chalk. To acquire one, 
go to a hardware store and ask for a 
chalk box. 

H) Methods of Application. Although there are many types of adhesive that can be 
used, we recommend rubber cement. Rubber cement is easily removable, but if proper- 
ly applied will stick indefinitely, and does not damage or permanently mark the board's 
surface. This may become important if you're apprehended and the authorities and 
owners attempt to assess property damage. Application of rubber cement on large over- 
lays is tricky. You need to coat evenly both the back of the overlay and the surface of the 
board that is to be covered. Allow one to two minutes drying time before applying the 
paper to the board. To apply the cement, use lo" paint rollers and a five-gallon plastic 
bucket. Have one person coat the back of the overlays while another coats the board's 
surface. Both people will be needed to affix the coated overlay to the finished board sur- 
face. On cool nights there may be condensation on the board, in which case the area to 
be covered needs to be wiped down first — use shop towels or a chamois for this. 

To level overlay panels on the board, measure up from the bottom {or dovm from the 
top) of the board to the bottom line of where it needs to be in order to cover the existing 
copy. Make small marks at the outermost left and right-hand points. Using a chalk snap 
line- with two people, snap a horizontal line between these two points. This Hne is your 
marker for placing your overlay. 

If you have a canvas or paper overlay as described in (F) above, you can either fie the 
four corners and middle (top and bottom) very securely, or, if you can reach the face of 
the board by ladder or rope, attach the panel by screwing the i" x 4" boards to the bill- 
board. A good battery-powered drill is needed for this. We recommend hex-head "Tek" 
sheet metal screws, #8 or #10 size. Use a hex-head driver bit for your drill. These screws 
work well on either wood backboards or sheet metal. 

Billboard Improvement 

Once you've completed your preparations and are ready for the actual hit, there are 
many things that can be done to minimize the risk of apprehension and/or injury: 

A) Personnel. Have the smallest number of people possible on the board. Three is 
about optimum — two for the actual work and one for lookout and communications. 
Depending on your location, you may require additional spottuig personnel on the 

ground- — see below. 

B) Communications. For work on larger boards where you're exposed for longer pe- 
riods of time, we recommend compact CB units or FM-band walkie-talkies. Low cost 
CB walkie-talkies are available from Radio Shack and elsewhere, and can be fitted with 
headsets and microphones for ease of use. 

Have one or two cars positioned at crucial intersections within sight of the board. 
The ground crew should monitor oncoming traffic and maintain radio contact with the 
lookout on the board. Do not use the popular CB or FM channels; there are many other 
frequencies to choose from. A verbal code is a good idea since the channels you will be 
using will not be secure. 

It's crucial that the members of the ground crew don't lounge around their vehicle (s) 
or in any other way make it obvious that they're hanging around in a most likely desolate 
area late at night for no apparent reason. A passing policeman on patrol will notice them 
much sooner than he will the operatives on the board. Keep a low profile. We've found 
that lookouts dressed as winos or homeless couples are virtually invisible additions to 
the urban landscape. Park all vehicles out of sight of the operation. 

C) Safety. The risk of apprehension on a board pales in comparison to the risk of fall- 
ing, and safety concerns should always prevail over security. Remember, the wind can 

be powerful up on a tall billboard. If you're not an experienced climber, you're better off 
helping out on the ground as a security lookout, graphic designer, or publicist. Even if 

Executing the Hit 

Billboard Improvement 


you are an experienced climber, we don't recommend solo actions on any board larger 
than 8 panels (6' x 12'). Ideally, all field actions should incorporate the buddy system, 
but particularly those that require any sort of rigging. If you're going to lean over the top 
of the board to affix any overlays, you should have a secured partner belaying you. It's a 
long way down, so be carefiil up there. 

D) Cleanup. Billboard structures are urban garbage as it is; don't make matters worse by 
leaving your empty glue tubes, discarded vinyl backing, cigarette butts, and empties on the 
property. The responsible billboard liberator leaves nothing behind, not even fingerprints. 

E) Escape. If you've done your homework, you'U know the terrain surrounding the 
board quite well. In the event of detection, prepare a number of alternate routes out of 
the area, and a rendezvous point with the ground support crew. If a patrol is approach- 
ing and you are in a difficult spot for quickly ditching and hiding — say, you're hanging 
on a rope in the middle of the board — it may be better simply to stay still until they pass. 
Movement is more likely to catch the eye. 

Once on the ground, if pursuit is imminent, hiding may be your safest bet. If you've 
covered the terrain carefully, you'll be aware of any good hiding spots. Stashing clothing 
in advance at your hiding spot might be vidse — a business suit, perhaps, or rumpled lei- 
surewear. Keep in mind that if the poHce do a thorough search (doubtful, but not impos- 
sible), they vrill use high-powered spotlights from cars, as well as flashlights if they're on 
foot. See Evasion {pg. 234) for more hints on how to outwit and outrun them. 

Publicizing Your Action 

Billboard tmproi>emer)t 

like the advertisements they improve, your actions should aim for the greatest possible 
reach. Try to time your improvement so it stays up for as long as possible and is seen by 
a vidde audience. Actions executed at the beginning of a holiday weekend tend to stay up 

longest, since repair crews are less readily available. You can also add to the notoriety of 
your work by seeking media attention. 

A) Photographs. Color slides are best for magazine and newspaper submissions, but 
online publishers prefer high-resolution JPEG files. Be sure to get a good "before" pic- 
ture of the board to be altered, ideally taken from the same camera position and at the 
same time of day {or night) as the "after" photograph. An "after" picture should be taken 
as soon as possible after the action is completed; if you want a daytime shot as well, 
come back for it later. 

B) Press Releases. These can be serious or surreal, according to your motives and 
whim. They are essentially cover letters for your photographs, which comprise the es- 
sence of the story (see Mainstream Media, pg. 358). 

Movie theaters, bus stops, and similar locations often display poster advertisements 
behind plexiglass frames. Some such frames can be opened by universal keys. If you 
can reverse-engineer such a key, you can remove these advertisements and alter, replace, 
or at least destroy them, just as you would the more easily accessible advertisements in 
subway cars, buses, and student union buildings. If you also paint a message on the 
surface behind the posters, when they replace the posters you can simply walk around 
opening the frames and removing the posters, revealing your message. The companies 
renting these advertising sites will have to paint over your work and ultimately change 
their locking systems to secure their precious private property against free expression. 
Then you can come back with a roller and cover the plexiglass itself in black paint. No 
peace for the pushers of corporate propaganda! 

Other Applications 

Billboard Improvement 

Account c^ 

Digital camera 




Black crayon 

Black spray paint 

I took a picture of the words close up next to a ruler strung up next to the sign with 
string and a weight. On my computer, I put that picture in Photoshop and used the ruler 
as a reference point to make the letter life size on the screen. Then I stretched the word 
"Addicted?" over the picture and made it the right font, etc. Next I printed out an outline 
of each letter, coloring the blank spaces and outer spaces with the black crayon. I cut out 
the letters so there were no sharp comers or hanging dots. 

I made wheatpaste. About 2:30 a.m. the lights on the billboard were out. I put the lad- 
der up next to the sign and spray painted over the word "Ready?" in black to hide it. The 
paint dried. I went back with the wheatpaste and the letters, slapped on the wheatpaste, 
slapped on the letters, slapped on more wheatpaste — and voila, my own billboard, free 
of charge. 

Billboard Improvement 

Blocs, Black o^ Otherwise 

As one middk-aged mother observed while members of the Quebec black bloc hu^ed each other 
before going off to battle the cops, "I always thought this was going to be sinister, hut these are 
just brave kids!" 

Matching clothing 

that conceals the wearers' identities'' 

a mission 

Trust and communication 

Provisions: water (plenty, especially if you'll be dressed in hot gear or expea chemical weapons 
attacks), food (don't rely on shops or shopkeepers in contested zones) 

Camouflage: different layers of clothing for different purposes or stages of the action 

Defensive gear: banners, shields (possibly disguised as puppets or placards), steel-toed 
shoes (should still he comfortable for running!), body armor or padding, gas masks or 
goggles and bandannas soaked in lime juice (store in zip-lock bags until necessary), 
rain coats or chemical protection gear (if there is a risk of chemical attack), whatever 
relevant medical supplies you know how to apply 

Offensive gear: spray paint, projectiles, slingshots, signs or flags on thick poles (or just 
plain poles), molotov cocktails, bright lights (to obscure police or camera vision dunng 
night aaions), ladders and/or bolt cutters for scaling or breaching barriers 

Communications equipment: hand radios, cell phones, police scanners, flags, drums, 
shared codes for making internal announcements 

Transportation: bicycles, enough change for the subway keys to your SUV (easy there, 
killer, it's just a joke!) 


Optional Ingredients 

"Nether participate in a bloc with 
patches, pins, or other identiffing 
marks on clothing; never leave hair, 
piercing, or tattoos exposed. This 
can defeat the entire purpose of 
masking up. Remember, you're not 
only obscuring your identity to protect 
against possible future prosecution, 
but also to make it impossible for 
police to target specif c individuals in 
your bloc during the action. 



What is a bloc? Are there other 
kinds besides the black bloc? 

You may have heard of the notorious black bloc, a venerable, if not doddering, anarchist 
tradition in which a mass of direct action enthusiasts gather, all wearing black clothing 
and masks, and engage in some form of illegal activity. This tactic has won some famous 
victories in the past two decades, and failed utterly more times than anyone can count, 
too. The specific cultural characteristics that are associated with the black bloc tactic 
today can make it easy to overlook the long history of the bloc tactic and the wide variety 
of applications for which it can be used. The Boston Tea Party, for example, was a perfect 
example of a bloc in action: the participants organized secretiy, wore matching disguises 
(though their choice to costume themselves as "Indians" wasn't exactly politically cor- 
rect), and engaged in a mass act of provocative property destruction; presumably their 
strategies for communication and mutual defense weren't much different from those 
used by the famous black blocs that, a couple hundred years later, attacked similarly 
noxious coffee corporations in Seattle. Those who practice direct action would do well 
to keep in mind the wide range of scenarios in which a version of the bloc approach can 
be useful. 

What is a bloc good for? 

Blocs, Black and Otherwise 

Acting in a bloc is especially useful when some of the participants in the action expect 
they may break laws. When everyone in a group looks the same, it is difficult for the po- 
lice or others to tell who did what. Most criminal activities are better carried off in a less 
obvious manner, of course, but there are situations in which it is necessary to step out- 
side the limits in public. The bloc tactic as it's known these days is best for conditions in 
which the action called for occupies the gray area between overt and covert, and as such 
it must be applied carefully: if you participate with a bloc in an entirely legal action, you 
may make a police target of yourself unnecessarily, or needlessly frighten bystanders; on 
the other hand, if you intend to engage in serious organized criminal activity, you might 
be better off doing so outside the traditional bloc format, in a totally closed group, with 

the element of surprise and so on. It's not an accident that people don't liberate animals 
from fur farms in black blocs. 

One of the positive sides of public bloc activity is that, unlike entirely underground 
activity, it can create open-ended situations, in which the actions of a few can open the 
floodgates for others to join in. One of the many objectionable qualities of clandestine 
terrorism is that, at best, it is still a spectator sport; a bloc, on the other hand, can be a 
participatory and contagious radicalizing experience. The most obvious way to facilitate 
this is to organize an open or semi-open bloc. 

In an open bloc, a general call goes out to all interested to gather and act in a bloc; 
open meetings are held to discuss goals, strategies, and so on. The benefits of such an 
approach are that more people can be involved; the obvious drawback is that security 
is so compromised that the possibilities for action are severely limited. In a semi-open 
bloc, the organizing takes place in secret, between people who know and trust each 
other, but when the bloc itself comes together, others in bloc attire are welcomed to it; 
in the past few years of black bloc activities, this has been the most frequent format. In 
such blocs, it is still necessary that the participants be prepared to deal vidth infiltration, 
but they at least have the benefit of secure planning and internal structures. 

In an entirely closed bloc, the participants prepare in secret and do not welcome the par- 
ticipation or company of any outsiders during the action. Even when such a bloc is called 
for, it can still be valuable to act openly, as a bloc, rather than covertly: the public nature 
of the action may send an important message, others outside the bloc may be inspired to 
engage in similar actions of their own, and the crowd cover itself might enable an escape 
that would actually be more difficult for those opting for a clandestine approach. 

Besides getting away with public criminal acts, there are other reasons to act in a bloc. 
Bloc participation can be really exciting, and good for morale — acting in a mass of people 
who are ostensibly prepared to do what they believe is right regardless of police intimi- 129 

Blocs, Black and Otherwise 

dation is often a hell of a lot more empowering than chanting weakly with the liberals, 
and matching battle-dress is a ritual for inspiring courage that need not be abandoned 
to our uniformed enemies. A bloc presence may convey important information: to the 
powers that be, don't juck with this march, or don't you dare rig that jury; to allies or pos- 
sible allies, don't despair, we're with you. Finally, anonymity: there are countless reasons to 
conceal your identity at mass actions. Even if you do not plan on committing any crimes, 
even if you don't mind the secret police capturing your image for their files, you still do 
a great service to others by masking up and increasing the number of people who are 
disguised, thus making it more difficult for the police to keep up with all of you. Those 
others might not just be criminals, either; they might be foreigners who don't want their 
participation in radical activities to be used as grounds for deportation, or teachers who 
don't want to risk losing their jobs. Sometimes a masked crowd is unnecessarily intimi- 
dating to the public; sometimes few enough people are masking up, or police attention 
is so focused on the bloc, that you may deem it safer not to draw attention to yourself by 
doing so, even if you may engage in illegal activities; and sometimes it's better to show 
your neighbors where you stand, or let the public and the cameras see that not everyone 
involved in radical activity is young, white, and male. Otherwise, if others are masking 
up, you might as well do the same. 

Those masks don't necessarily have to be black ski masks, anyway; there are plenty 
of more fun, family-oriented ways to obscure your identity. Beyond the black bloc, end- 
less possibilities open up: pink blocs, clown blocs, doctor blocs, maintenance worker 
blocs . . . Wherever a bunch of people are wearing identical clothing or costumes, 
the bloc tactic could be deployed, utilizing the matching crowd for camouflage. Hal- 
loween, for example, could offer a great opportunity for bloc action — as could a high 

Blocs, Black and Otherwise ^^^'^^'^ graduation! 

Black bloc actions have been a hit at mass actions over the past couple of decades: there 
have been blocs in the protests at meetings of such despicable gangs as the World Trade 
Organization, at political events such as debates between presidential candidates, at 
antiwar demonstrations and solidarity marches with communities that are suffering 
police brutality. Wherever there is a mass gathering of protesters, it may make sense to 
deploy or call for a bloc. 

In such environments, the bloc can serve many purposes. As mentioned before, it 
can simply be present as a promise of solidarity, or a threat. It can act as a Hne of de- 
fense for or a distraction from other activists doing civil disobedience actions such as 
lockdowns and blockades, who will be unable to defend themselves from the police. It 
can engage in property destruction— this can achieve economic ends, such as inflicting 
financial losses upon wicked corporations, or other practical goals: a city can be per- 
suaded never to risk hosting another vivisection conference, or alienated workers (and 
even activists!) can experience firsthand that the stranglehold their oppressors seem 
to have on reality can literally be broken. A bloc can attempt to prevent delegates from 
reaching an unwanted meeting, or trap them inside the meeting space to make sure 
they get the message that their shenanigans are not welcome. It can reclaim urban 
space, opening up and protecting a street or park for others to reinterpret and enjoy, or 
rerouting a permitted march into unpermitted areas. It can engage the police in conflict, 
and thus disrupt business as usual — a meeting in Quebec City to discuss the Free Trade 
Area of the Americas agreement had to be halted temporarily when tear gas from the 
streetfighting below entered the vents of the building hosting it. It can offer the pos- 
sibility of contesting power and control in immediate actions, rather than mere words, 
and thus keep spirits up and appetites whetted. A bloc might attempt to set off full-scale 
rioting, in hope of precipitating an insurrection— or it could simply create a spectacle, 
to emphasize the anarchist presence and foreground its romantic appeal; liberal carping 

Where and how can the bloc 
tactic be applied? 

Blocs, Black and Otherwise 

about "alienating the public" notwithstanding, the black blocs in Seattle and afterwards 
did as much to increase the mass appeal of anarchist action as any propaganda publica- 
tion. If nothing else, a bloc action can be good practice for similar future actions that 
may achieve more. 

When choosing goals for a bloc at a mass action, it is critical that the intentions, 
needs, and comfort levels of locals and others who wdll be present be taken into account. 
Alienating people needlessly is not only counterproductive, but endangers bloc partici- 
pants; the police are already enemies enough for anyone breaking the law. The last thing 
you want to do is endanger others with your actions — so don't throw stones at the police 
from the back of a crowd, or risk provoking police attacks on peaceful marches, espe- 
cially if you're not planning on sticking around to bear the brunt of them. If you're op- 
erating in a mostly out-of-town group that will be acting in a residential neighborhood, 
don't be so arrogant as to think you should be the ones to decide what level of conflict 
is most appropriate for the situation — far better you show that you respect the needs 
and perspectives of the locals, and are willing to follow their lead. There may be cases 
in which it is appropriate to bring a level of intensity to an action that others aren't pre- 
pared to — for example, if liberal organizers are addressing a gross injustice with useless 
gestures that will do nothing to put things right — ^but it's good form to make sure that 
the first ones to pay the piper for whatever goes down will be you and your companions, 
not innocent bystanders. 

Similarly, it is important to be realistic about what you can hope to accomplish in 

the situation at hand, given your experience, numbers, and other resources. If the local 

populace hates the arrogance of the leaders who are meeting in their city, but mistrusts 

the equally foreign hordes who have gathered there to protest them, it might make more 

Blocs. Black and Otherwise ^^^^^ to target those leaders than to smash corporate windows in what the locals might 

132 perceive as an outsiders' attack on their home streets. Take everything into account: the 

personality of the police force, the current local political climate, how aware others will 
be of what happens to you and your companions, whether the authorities will want to 
teach you a lesson this time or avoid inopportune media coverage, whether the police 
will be trying to secure the whole area (in which case you can expect them to attempt 
mass arrests, if they have the numbers) or simply protect a part of it {in which case they 
may resort to dispersal or defense tactics, if they are outnumbered or uncertain). Is your 
action intended for media coverage, for those who witness it in person, for those who 
participate in it, or for those who foot the bills? Is your goal worth the risk, is it appropri- 
ate to the event in question? 

Outside the mass at mass actions, acting in a bloc is a much riskier proposition, for 
the bloc can be easily surrounded and neutralized by the police. Historically, at demon- 
strations, almost every bloc that has mixed well with a much larger mass of law-abiding 
protesters has managed to maintain some degree of safety and coherence, while almost 
every bloc that has attempted to operate in their absence has suffered or at least risked 
serious police repression. Some lessons we can draw from such previous successes and 
failures are: 

1. The bloc should not operate without either the element of surprise or the benefit of 
broad crowd cover, at least not unless it is expected to be of vast numbers, high morale, 
and great defensive experience, or unless the purpose of the action is to get a lot of par- 
ticipants arrested. 

2. Announced direct actions (blocs, unpermitted marches, etc.) at mass events should 
always take place on or before the big day of general protest, never after them. When di- 
rect action precedes or coincides with massive marches and gatherings, it often sets the 
tone for everything that follows, upping the ante and radicalizing the event in general; 
when direct action enthusiasts are the only ones left out on the street after the law-abid- 
ing activists have gone home, the police know they can isolate, abuse, and arrest them 

Blocs, Black and Otherwise 

You can make a harmless noise 

bomb by sealing a piece of dry ice in 

a plastic soda bottle with a little bit of 

water; for a distraction, try throwing 

these away in garbage cans a block or 

two from police activity. 

Biocs, Black and Otherwise 

without fear of stepping on the toes of the "wrong" citizens, or being observed by such 
citizens as they do so. The presence of others who would witness police brutality is an 
important deterrent; work without it at your peril. 

3. Those operating in a bloc need to have the support or at least the respect of some, 
if not most, of those outside the bloc, so as to ensure their safety on the field, let alone 
general good will in the activist community. In one historic instance, a black bloc was 
surrounded and cornered by police, who were moving in to finish it off when a march 
organized by a liberal women's organization was re-routed to pass through the area and 
provide members of the bloc wdth an opportunity to blend in and escape. To this end, it 
helps a great deal if the goals or targets of the bloc are instantly comprehensible to out- 
siders, so whether or not others agree with the tactic itself they can at least understand 
why it is being employed. 

On the other hand, there are cases in which none of these rules of thumb is relevant. 
Entirely outside the realm of mass actions, there are many other environments in which 
the bloc tactic can be applied; indeed, such applications may be the most promising 
for the future of the bloc, now that police are very familiar wdth and prepared for bloc 
presence at demonstrations. A bloc operating swiflly against an unprepared target can 
accomplish a great deal. Consult the account at the end of this text for an illustration of 
how a bloc can be deployed outside the demonstration format to wreak havoc on corpo- 
rate and governmental property. 

When acting in a bloc with no demonstrating mass for cover, the most important 
advantage you have to work with is surprise. If you organize in such a way that the 
authorities don't see your action coming, you may be able to get everything done and 
escape before they're able to respond. Even when they do arrive, chances are they will 
not be prepared to make mass arrests, so you can expect them to attempt only to seize 
individuals; in this situation, the individuals carrying out high-risk actions may be able 

to disappear in the cominotion {enthusiasts of civil disobedience could even snarl the 
police up in petty arrests to facilitate this, though they might risk a conspiracy charge if 
they were connected to the bloc) — or, if the group is able to act with a high degree of soli- 
darity and audacity, staying close together and not permitting police to get their hands 
on individuals within it, it might be possible to negotiate a departure en masse, though 
you can expect to be followed at the very least. It has happened before that groups of 
activists breaking the law together, who showed that they would not be intimidated nor 
allow members to be picked off, have been permitted by unprepared police to leave an 
area in return for concluding their action. It's also happened that they've had rubber 
bullets shot at them, though! If some of you are planning illegal activity of a serious 
nature, it may be a good idea to have others in your group applying a wide range of less 
confrontational tactics, so the police won't be as likely to treat you all as hard-core crimi- 
nals. Whenever it's possible without compromising security, try to make sure everyone 
in your trusted affinity group, especially the ones who aren't keen on taking great legal 
risks, knows what the highest level of possible illegal activity is, as you never know 
whether the police will choose to hold others responsible for the actions of those they 
couldn't catch! 

If you're showing up at a corporate office at sunrise, you can expect to be practically 
the only ones there, and you'll have to count on speed and clever escape routes for your 
liberty; but there are other situations in which, just as at a demonstration, there vrill 
be crowd cover^ — -even potentially supportive crowd cover — to melt into. Who knows, a 
sports fan bloc mixing with the jubilant crowd celebrating a home team football victory 
might be able to touch off hard-core anticorporate vandalism and looting! 

When making plans and setting goals for a bloc action in a particular context, it is 
always important to look back in history for precedents. If the last time someone tried „, bI k d Oth 
something similar to what you are trying was a disaster, you had better figure out what 135 


Blocs, Black and Otherwise 

new element you can throw in to give yourself a better chance. History tends to repeat 
itself— at least when we don't use our ingenuity to derail it! Get familiar with the history 
of bloc actions over the past few years; whenever you're considering joining in one, pick 
out and consider the previous example that best indicates what you can expect from this 
one — ^keeping in mind, of course, that your adversaries have been doing the same, so 
counting on a particular stratagem to work twice is a risky proposition. It is at least as 
important to know when not to do a bloc action as it is to know when to try one: unsuc- 
cessful attempts to act in bloc, when there are not enough participants available or the 
conditions are not favorable, can sap energy better applied elsewhere. When you strike in 
bloc, strike hard and impressively, then wait for the next realistic chance to do so again. 

Naturally, the affinity group is the basic building block of any bloc. It is impossible to 
overstate the importance of engaging in bloc activity as part of a small group capable of 
fending for itself and making decisions; to do otherwise is to abdicate responsibility for 
yourself to the mass, and to deny that mass the benefit of your participation as an equal. 
Blocs made up of self sufficient affinity groups can make democratic decisions quickly, 
can split up into equally effective smaller groups, and can handle stressful situations with- 
out the added stress of herding a flock of confused followers. Within your affinity group, 
you should establish common expectations about what goals are, what level of risk is 
acceptable, what kind of security is appropriate. Security is especially important in bloc 
activities, because of the sketchy mix of public and unlawfid activity that may be involved; 
be sure everyone has an understanding of security culture (see Security Culture, pg. 451). 
Regardless of the total size of the bloc, each affinity group should be totally self- 
sustaining, at least with regard to the goals it intends to achieve. Escape routes, legal 
resources, emergency backup plans, knowledge of the area — every affinity group should 
have all of these. A buddy system inside a group is useful: if the group itself is dispersed. 

individuals can take responsibility for the safety and whereabouts of their partners. In- 
ternal roles can be assigned: for example, scouts who keep track of activity and police 
presence (these can be equipped with hand radios or cell phones for communicating 
with the main group, and can ride bicycles for extra speed and mobility; it usually makes 
sense to position them at least a block or so away from the group, so they can provide 
early warnings and broader perspective on the area), communications people (also with 
radios or cell phones, and perhaps a police scanner) to exchange information with the 
scouts and other groups, runners to communicate new information to nearby groups, 
experienced folks to correlate and consider information and take responsibility for mak- 
ing split-second decisions, persons to carry out the actions planned, lookouts to cover 
them, perhaps a flag-bearer or marching band to maintain morale and keep the group 
visible from a distance, and so on. It might be wise to have one person in non-bloc cloth- 
ing to attend the bloc, to handle such tasks as explaining to spectators that they should 
not take photographs, since the police can seize their cameras and use the pictures in 
court. The role the affinity group plays in a larger group can also be speciaHzed: an 
affinity group could serve as scouts for a larger bloc, or set out to blockade a particular 
intersection, or concentrate on maintaining a banner at the front of a large group. 

An affinity group can form a small, ad-hoc bloc on its own, but a cluster of affinity 
groups can form a larger, more powerful bloc. In this case, it is critical that efficient and 
democratic structures be set up within the cluster. It should be possible for news, ques- 
tions, and answers to be communicated swiftly within and between affinity groups, even 
in the tensest situations. Some have argued in favor of a more militaristic bloc model, 
that would presumably operate more like the hierarchical regiments our enemies pit 
against us, but the very strength of the bloc is its decentralized, unpredictable nature; 
it seems foolish to try to beat our oppressors at their own game rather ffian capitalizing 
on our own strengths. Better we improve our coordination than focus on control: we are 

Bhcs, Black and Otherwise 

conductors setting the stage for improvisation, not military tacticians with underlings 
and commanding officers. 

In a bloc made up of affinity groups from different areas, the local group will inevita- 
bly have the most information about what is possible, and may well consequently have 
done the most thinking and preparing. This is not necessarily a problem, as long as 
others trust them and are organized enough themselves to retain their autonomy. The 
local group should make provisions for sharing as much information with others as is 
safe, and also be sure not to assume unthinkingly a position of authority over the other 
groups: a local group attenapting to lead an uninformed mass on an unrevealed secret 
mission can be a real recipe for disaster. On the other hand, as the element of surprise 
is the most important factor in almost aU bloc actions, provided that there is a high level 
of trust between organizers and participants a secret plan that only becomes clear to 
everyone at the instant it comes to fruition can be a powerful thing. 


Blocs, Black and Otherwise 

One of the most important things to do before an action is learn the area. As many 
members of each group as possible should spend time traversing it, taking careful note 
of escape routes and dead ends, cameras, places where the police may mass or that they 
may seek to protect, possible targets, possible resources (barricading materials such as 
moveable fences, etc.), and above all making sure they will not get lost. Those who can- 
not be there in advance should at least memorize maps. For locations for which street 
maps are unavailable or do not suffice, it is possible to get aerial maps off the internet. 
Make sure you have a safe place to stay before the action if there's any chance the po- 
Hce are expecting it. Far too many times, the police have raided activist housing before 
an action and arrested hundreds of people; do everything you can to find a place to sleep 
and prepare that is off their radar, so you won't run ffiat risk. Stay with a friend of your 
uncle, or rent sleeping space at a YMCA. Don't be stuck trying to sleep in your car on the 

streets they're patrolling in preparation for the next day's riot! If you're from out of town, 
make equally sure your traveling group {which may not be the same as your affinity 
group) has planned a safe regrouping and departure from the area, and has a backup 
plan in case of emergency. Keep in mind that if things really go off, certain parts of the 
city may be closed off to you after the action, so you'll need to regroup elsewhere. 

Advance meetings are a critical part of the preparation for most blocs. Again, how 
secure or public these meetings are will depend on how many people (and with what 
level of direct action experience) you hope to involve, and what degree of legal risk you're 
willing to take. If you're trying to organize a massive but largely symbolic open bloc, you 
might choose to circulate meeting times openly; if you're organizing the core of a bloc 
that will be open in the street but needs some preparation in private, tell others you trust 
to pass on an invitation to the meeting only to those they trust; if you're preparing an 
entirely closed bloc, not only should you only reveal the time and place of the meeting 
to your companions in the action, but you should also make sure they all know not to 
mention the existence of the project itself to anyone, and to have alibis ready so their 
other friends won't wonder what they're up to. For more vital information about security 
precautions, consult the Security Culture recipe on pg. 461. 

If you are part of an affinity group participating in a larger bloc, you'll want to have 
your own meetings first, so when a representative of your group attends the larger meet- 
ing she can present the information you have, the resources you have to offer, the goals 
you hope to achieve, and the plans you propose, according to how much of this you trust 
a larger number of people to know. If this is a mass action and there is a larger spokes- 
council meeting taking place, at least one person from the bloc or in communication 
with it should attend; it may or may not be safe for this person to identify herself as 
such, but she should at least be there to take note of what else is going on. A representa- 
tive of the bloc could attend the spokescouncil presenting herself as a part of an affinity 

Immediately before actions that 
will involve participants who are 
unprepared or unfamiliar with the 
terrain, you can distribute maps of 
the area. These can also include a 
legal number (see Legal Support, 
pg. 329), in case of arrest — but take 
care lest possession of such maps 
incriminate arrestees. 

Blocs, Black and Otherwise 

group hoping to do support for those involved in bloc activity, and thus test the waters 
or even meet others interested in the bloc. 

In the meetings with your affinity group and the bloc, you'll want to establish a plan 
of some kind for the day (these almost never come off as intended, but they help to get 
everyone in practice thinking about the situation, and it's good to be prepared to have 
something to do in case everything does work out), and a structure to facilitate com- 
munication and quick, democratic decision-making within the bloc, as described above. 
Structure will make you adaptable and thus effective, whether or not your plans come 
to fruition. You should establish a meeting point for the bloc, plans for dispersal, and 
a possible time and place for regrouping, if that would be desirable should the bloc be 
divided early. Share legal information, what resources will be available for those who are 
arrested. Go over every possible scenario, what you can expect from each other in each 
of them. Psychology is important here: plan for the worst, but don't demoralize your- 
selves^ — you're considering the possible problems so you'll be ready for them, not to talk 
yourself out of action. 

Finally — ^if there will be more than one language spoken among demonstrators or 
locals, make sure to learn a few important phrases in each of them: "we are not against 
you, we want no trouble with you," "don't run, walk!," "medical assistance needed!" 

During the action 

Blocs, Black and Otherwise 

It is often wise to write the phone number of a legal contact on your body in permanent 
marker shortly before an action, so you can be sure it will be available to you if you are 
arrested, regardless of what else transpires (see Legal Support, pg. 329). You may need 
to know other cell phone numbers and so on for the day's actions: try to learn them by 
heart or, failing that, write them on your skin in an ink that you can rub off if necessary. 
You'll also want to have enough money on you for food, transportation, and phone calls, 
but no more, as it will probably disappear in the event of arrest. Remove piercings that 

could be torn out. Do not carry your address book, unnecessary anarchist propaganda, 
or anything needlessly incriminating or illegal. Take your I.D. with you if you want to be 
processed as your "true" identity in the event of arrest; if you plan on withholding your 
identity from the police, make sure you have no identifying papers on you. Carry plenty 
of water and high-energy foods with you; be prepared for emergencies — if you get sepa- 
rated from everyone and have to spend the night hiding out in a dumpster, you don't 
want to be starving, too — but don't weigh yourself down with anything unnecessary. 
Carry with you whatever first aid supplies you know how to use that might be useful. 
Be aware of what medical assistance — such as street medics and clinics — is going to be 
available in the streets, and have a plan if you have to go to a hospital (a fake name and 
social security number, and an alibi, if you fear you might encounter police there); be 
similarly aware of whether legal observers and media will be present in the streets, and 
whether you'll want them around or far away from you. 

Be prepared for the situation at hand. If the police outnumber you and are waiting for 
you and there are reporters and civilians in the area, don't come in a gas mask and body 
armor like the folks in your favorite street riot photographs— they're not going to gas 
and beat you, they're going to try to encircle and arrest you, and you'll need to be able to 
move quickly and blend well to avoid it. 

Clothing is the one essential feature of the bloc tactic, and the rock upon which it 
rests or founders. Far away from the action itself, you may want to practice moving and 
acting freely in your bloc gear, so you won't still be getting used to it when it's too late. 
The whole idea of a bloc is to look indistinguishable from each other, so make sure 
whatever your bloc theme is, everyone is on the same page about it, and that your ovm 
clothing doesn't bear any featiures that distinguish it. In a worst-case scenario, you can 
make a t-shirt into a mask: use the neck hole for your eyes, and tie the sleeves behind 
your head. 

Blocs, Black and Otherwise 

Blocs, Black and Otherwise 

Your clothing should protect you from the hazards you expect, while not weighing 
you down unnecessarily; it should be adaptable should unexpected situations arise. Lay- 
ers are key: if possible, wear an outer layer in which to travel to the bloc action, a layer of 
bloc clothing, and then another layer of getaway clothing beneath this — ^without risking 
heat stroke, of course. In some situations, it may be more sensible to carry the outer 
layer of your getaway layer in a sealed bag, in case you are covered in paint or tear gas by 
the time you need to use it. Consult the Health Care recipe (pg. 275) for information on 
how to handle chemical weapons attacks, if you risk incurring them. I've read that ear 
plugs can offer some protection against concussion grenades, but how one is supposed 
to know when to put them in and when to have them out so as to be appropriately at- 
tentive is beyond me. If you expect to risk receiving blows or projectile fire, wear body 
armor of some kind (protective sports gear can suffice) and foam or padding, and a 
bicycle or motorcycle helmet. 

A bloc that intends to defend territory in clashes with the police may decide to use 
shields. These can be made from trashcan lids or cut traffic barrels, layered (superglued 
together) and reinforced plexiglass, or inflated rubber rafts heavily reinforced with duct 
tape and possibly a layer of tarp or good old-fashioned cardboard. Wrap duct tape thickly 
around the handles so the shock of impact won't break your wrists, and provide plenty 
of room between the handle and the shield so your knuckles don't take the entire blow. 
Larger shields are better for protecting against projectile weapons or functioning as a 
mobile barricade, while smaller ones provide better mobility and serve better in hand- 
to-hand combat. A line of individual shield-bearers can form a shield wall, especially if 
they are practiced at moving together; alternatively, massive multi-person shields can be 
constructed, such as the insulation board placards mentioned below. The latter shields 
should have enough joints in them to navigate narrower streets; keep in mind that these 
joints are also their weakest points. 

Slapstick as it is, it often happens that comrades who discussed and prepared togeth- 
er will not be able to recognize each other in their bloc gear on the day of the action. You 
may want to identify yourselves to each other early on, especially people from different 
cities and affinity groups who intend to work together, so it will be easier to keep up with 
each other in the chaos. 

The moment the bloc forms can be pivotal. Where and when to mask up is a hard 
question. If you do it too late, once you've joined the bloc, you risk being identified; if 
you do it too early, before you've joined the bloc, you risk being nabbed by the poHce. 
Little masked groups walking around before or after events are perfect targets for their 
enemies. At a big demonstration, one of the best options is to get in your gear in the 
midst of a large crowd that is not yet under much surveillance, with people around you 
that you trust, and to move in the body of the crowd to a meeting point with your fel- 
lows in the bloc. Wearing layers is important here, too: if you can start in a disposable 
outermost layer that makes you look like a civilian or liberal activist {if perhaps one 
overdressed for the weather), masking up v;dll simply mean discarding it and simultane- 
ously pulHng up your mask. At an action in which you have the benefit of surprise, you 
can always pick a safe, quiet place near your convergence point and mask up there. 

In a mass action situation, the convergence of the bloc should never occur before other pro- 
testers are out in the streets; once again, the poHce will simply pick off the bloc when no one 
else is there to provide crowd cover or bear witness. Don't mill around for long at your conver- 
gence point— be timely, and get moving. It can happen that the bloc has a difficult time getting 
out into the field of action, once it has gathered. At a mass action, one of the best solutions for 
this problem is to have the bloc form somewhere outside the area of heavy police presence, 
and move into that area as part of a much larger mass— if there's nothing more interesting to 
do in the other direction, that is! When moving with a mass of others, a bloc should keep close 
to tibem as well as tight internally; police may try to push in and isolate the bloc. 

You can carry umbrellas to make 
it more difficult for cameras or 
overhead observers to monitor the 
activities of your group. 

Blocs, Black and Otherwise 



You can mix styrofoam into 

gasoline to make it stick — this 

recipe has been used for the filling 

of molotov cocktails. 

Blocs, Black and Otherwise 

Once together, stay tight spatially {with the obvious exception of the scouts, who need 
to be further out): you need to keep police out of your ranks, prevent snatch squads 
from getting in to grab individuals, and also keep your friends at your sides rather than 
strangers or possible undercover officers. Banners down the front and sides of a group 
can offer useful barriers to this end. You can reinforce cloth banners with PVC pipe 
or wooden planks; far better, use tough but limber insulation board to construct great 
placards — these can be tied or chained together, to create a mobile, jointed full-size bar- 
ricade. Remember, your physical presence and togetherness comprise your strength, 
your readiness to repel police charges and foil arrest attempts is your marching permit. 
If you strike when they're not prepared to make mass arrests or attack with chemical 
weapons, they'll be forced to try to intimidate you by singling out individuals for attack 
or arrest; make this impossible, defend each other and don't back down. 

It's possible to conceal useful materials in an area in advance — a dumpster can be 
filled with sticks and rocks or spray paint cans, and all the better if it's on wheels. Sensi- 
tive materials (such as projectiles) can be transported to the action concealed in puppets, 
and puppets built from paper mache over stronger stuff can serve as effective shields — 
though those poor puppeteers get enough shit from the authorities already without 
suffering on your account, too. Keep in mind that carrying a bag of rocks, bottles, gaso- 
line, etc. vidll not look good if you get arrested. Don't forget, also, that with a simple tool 
it's always possible to break concrete or asphalt up into projectiles on the spot — beneath 
the concrete, the paving stones, isn't that how the old French saying goes.^ 

Everyone in your group should have a one-time-only nickname for the duration of 
the planning and action, so you can address each other without giving away your identi- 
ties. Those communicating over ceU phones or hand-held radios should assume that 
the police are listening in; it may be wise for those doing communications to learn a 
code of some kind, or at least keep in mind what not to say over the air. It can also be 

good for an affinity group or bloc to learn coded announcements in advance, so you 
can communicate openly without anyone else understanding. "Tighten up!," "The pigs 
are moving in!," "We need to break through their lines!," "It's time, let's do it!," "Split 
up and regroup at convergence point Bi" are all examples of typical announcements 
you might want to code. Don't use codes unnecessarily, or assume that if you just say 
"cookie" every time you mean "molotov cocktail" it's going to protect you; clumsy use of 
code can actually put you in greater danger, for the authorities can claim that your coded 
terms stood for more serious things than they actually did. Also, don't be afraid to make 
uncoded announcements to everyone: "Don't panic, stick together!," "We need to get 
closer and fill in this space here, slow down up ahead!," "Medic!," "Who can verify what 
he's saying.^" "Hold the fucking line!" The more everyone feels entitled to do this, the 
better, so long as it doesn't create more confusion than it solves; this will make it hard 
for your enemies to single out supposed leaders they perceive to be giving orders. 

In the heat of action, it's easy for all the structures you have set up in your affinity 
group to dissolve as individuals get caught up in new developments. Don't lose your 
head and let the mob mentality take over; make sure to stay spatially close wdth your 
group at all times, keep in communication with them about what is happening, don't 
get distracted from your role. It might help to have an informal formation — ^you can stay 
a few paces behind a particular companion at all times, vidth another friend always at 
your side, and another behind you, for example. Moving in lines can maintain cohesion 
and make police snatches and infiltration more difficult. Plans will change, but don't 
lose the structures that enable you to change them in unison. 

Don't panic, don't believe unsubstantiated rumors. You probably won't get a clear 
idea of what was going on everywhere else during the action until the day after, if you 
ever do; in the midst of everything, it will be easy to get buffeted about by waves of faulty 
information, so resist acting on news until you've double-checked it. Don't spread ru- 

Btocs, Black and Otherwise 

mors yourself, and don't just tell others your conclusions based on what you've seen or 
heard — tell them what you've seen or heard and let them draw conclusions too. 

Scouts should practice using communications equipment without being obvious, 
and while bicycling, if applicable; those recognized as scouts can count on police ha- 
rassment, which wdll be all the more problematic because they are alone and critical 
to the success of the group. They should be particularly quick and alert. Those using 
radios should make sure they have decided together on a charmel to use in advance, and 
a backup channel should there be problems. 

Barricades can be made out of anything from newspaper dispensers to burning 
dumpsters, and can serve to slow police progress or simply halt traffic; if you've scouted 
in advance, you should be able to get them in place very quickly, amid crowd confusion. 
Don't ever completely block off an escape route you may need! In a less confrontational 
situation, you can make it more difficult for the police to follow you in an organized line 
by simply moving the wrong way up a one-way street, provided there's still traffic com- 
ing down it. Offensive use of projectiles is serious stuff — one can go to prison for many 
years, if arrested — but it can serve to keep police at a distance in order to protect an area, 
or provoke them into using tear gas (which may actually be a tactic they hoped to avoid) . 
Don't begin throvvdng projectiles in a small group that can be surrounded — save it for 
massive clashes in which the city belongs to the police in one direction and the protest- 
ers in the other. When you throw, do so as part of a large group, from the front of the 
crowd, and maintain a steady hail in the contested area. Those behind the throwers can 
provide more ammunition via bucket brigade. 

If you're planning to do property destruction, come equipped with the appropriate 

tools. Make sure you're informed about your targets and their weakness or strength; 

Blocs Black and Otherwise if you get in position and strike that felonious blow only to find you're unable to break 

146 the shatterproof glass, you've just risked a lot for nothing. Sometimes spray paint can 

be more eloquent than broken glass: "Network TV, keep your eyes on the issues" across 
the front of the smashed corporate storefront they'll want to film — or, of course, if pos- 
sible, you can always just spray paint their camera lenses! Stay abreast of the different 
stations' coverage, so you can offer a pithy retort to the reporter who accuses you of 
interfering with free speech: "We saw your coverage of the social forum last night — you 
know as well as I do you don't care about free speech." Then disappear into the crowd 
while he angrily telephones his boss. 

The most dangerous weapons you should probably ever consider using in a street 
confrontation are molotov cocktails. Understand that if you use these, you can expect 
serious reprisals from the police; only do so when you've got a police-free zone behind 
you and a sympathetic crowd close by that you can escape into without unnecessarily en- 
dangering anyone. Best-case scenario, a small team splits from the angry mass, applies 
a cocktail or two, and disappears. Is it right to throw molotov cocktails at police? With 
the government spending thousands of dollars on each officer's special storm trooper 
suit, throwing stuff at cops is practically a victimless crime - — ^but you might be better 
off throwing paint bombs at them (see "Distance and Projectile Painting," Graffiti, pg. 
258}, or shooting paint gun pellets from your slingshot. If they get paint over their clear 
visors and shields, no one's injured, but they're rendered blind in their expensive armor 
and have to retreat. 

A variety of police weapons may be deployed against you: pepper spray, tear gas, 
water cannons, concussion grenades, rubber bullets, clubs, charging horses or vehicles. 
Know what to expect in each situation, and be prepared. Sometimes the best defense 
really is a good offense: a bloc prepared to act more quickly and courageously than law 
enforcers expect might be able to disable a water cannon before it is employed against 
them. Tear gas canisters can be thrown back at the police, but they will be extremely hot 
when they land; if you expect to be doing this, make sure you have on welding gloves or 

"'Don't give me that shit about more 
police officers than demonstrators 
going to the hospital at the anti-IMF 
protests in Prague — -jirst of alt, how 
many demonstrators do you think 
felt safe going to those hospitals, arid 
second of all, haven't you ever heard 
of offensive injuries? 

Blocs, Black and Otherwise 

other serious protection from heat, and that you have a good enough throwing arm and 
aim to get them out of the area entirely. Don't pick them up until they begin releasing 
gas — ^they may explode and injure you. Horses may balk at approaching an area where 
things are on fire; a less confrontational mass can deter a horse charge by all sitting or 
lying down. 

Police will endeavor to disperse unwanted crowds when they are not prepared to ar- 
rest them. Tear gas, concussion grenades, horse charges, stun guns, rubber bullets, etc. 
may be employed first, if the mass seems particularly rowdy; then, when they deem it 
safe, the officers will move in. They will probably do so in lines, charging and falling 
back to regroup and consolidate their gain before charging again. Violent arrests of indi- 
viduals vidll take place at this time to intimidate the mass, unless the side of the throng 
facing them is tight-knit and protected by barricades or united by linked arms at the 
least. While the crowd seems volatile and daring, the police may well keep a distance; 
if the crowd is confused, passive, or disintegrating, they may move in to form lines in 
its midst, to speed the process along. At no point should you panic and run — ^this can 
only increase your chances of charging into trouble, and endanger others in the process; 
if others start running, shout out "Walk, don't run!" At the same time, keep moving 
quickly, keep things chaotic to prevent the poHce firom getting a sense of where their 
opponents are or what to expect. Never let police come together inside the mass. 

If you are on the street, they will attempt to force you onto the sidewalk: this thins 
the crowd, lowers morale, and puts you a step closer to being cornered. If you are forced 
onto the sidewalk, you can use a street crossing or turn onto a side street to retake the as- 
phalt; banner-carriers can rush forward and block the space to be taken while it is filled 
with people, as can bicyclists. The same goes for other lanes of traffic, if they are endeav- 
Bhcs, Black and Otherwise °^^^S ^ limit you to the one you have seized. If the police cannot get everyone onto the 
148 sidewalk, they will at least try to scare the less militant in the crowd into moving onto 

it and adopting a spectator role, so they can then deal with the hard-core contingent; in 
this case, try to keep moving and circulating so the "spectators" can be absorbed again, 
though of course if you are moving in a tight bloc you don't want to lose your cohesion 
in such a situation. In an urban environment, it can be possible for an organized, alert 
group to move more quickly on foot than even mounted police officers; always keep 
moving and stay ahead of your foes. Sudden bursts of speed and changes in direction 
can keep them particularly confused — just make sure your group can engage in these 
without itself becoming confused or divided. To coordinate simultaneous action in large 
groups, you can shout out a countdown from ten to one. 

PoHce snatch squads can be sent into a crowd to grab individuals the police consider 
leaders or dangerous (or who have been observed committing a crime). Sometimes you 
can clearly see the commanding officer point out an individual to be snatched (this can 
also be the case if there is an officer firing rubber bullets — another officer may be pick- 
ing out the targets for him, and by watching you can tell who is about to be targeted). 
The squad will attempt to surround the target, while keeping an open corridor back to 
police lines. To protect against this, keep a close watch on police movements — they may 
form a straight line perpendicular to the mass before pushing in. If you know who the 
target is, get them out of the area and into different clothing. Put your body between ap- 
proaching officers and the target; keep moving and obstructing their path, while making 
it seem as accidental as possible, so as not to become a target yourself If a group can 
isolate and surround individual officers that have entered a crowd, these will back off if 
they don't feel in control. 

Others can attempt to unarrest individuals who have been nabbed. The time to do 
this is as soon as the police strike, before they have made their way back to their lines. 
You'll need a few people to break the officers' grip and others to block their path. As soon 
as your comrade is free, link arms and disappear immediately into the crowd. The squad 

Blocs, Black and Otherwise 

Blocs, Black and Otherwise 

will probably try to snatch again, and will aim for the unarresters, too, this time; keep 
in mind that unarresting may result in more serious criminal charges than the original 
target would have faced, so only hazard it if you have a good chance of success or the 
stakes are too high not to. It has happened before that police vehicles surrounded by an 
angry crowd have been forced to release arrestees, but they have to be trapped there, not 
just heckled. If their tires are punctured (stick the sidewall, not the tread), that will force 
them to a halt, but popping tires can be loud — again, don't try this unless you're in a 
trusted crowd with cover in range. 

If you are grabbed by police, keep in mind that even self-defense of the mildest sort 
can result in assault charges. If you expect your companions to try to snatch you back, 
keep the arresting officers' job difficult by continuing to move, or else go limp: this will 
not result in assaidt charges (though "resisting arrest" is not unheard of), and will force 
the officers to work much harder to move you. Bear in mind that going limp may pro- 
voke them into being even more violent to you; but if every arrest they make costs them 
a lot of manpower and time, your friends will be in a better position to escape or attempt 
to rescue you. 

There's always the chance that the police will totally surround your group and arrest 
you one by one. If this occurs, you're in trouble. The best defense is to keep abreast of 
police movement by means of scouts: they may attempt to move up side streets to sur- 
round you, or lure you forward while sending a line around to cut off" your retreat. If 
you find your group surrounded by police lines that are thin in one direction, you can 
attempt to charge out: use your own tight front line, protected with a barrier (banner, 
shields, fencing, linked arms at the least), to push as a solid wall, potentially with a plow 
point at the very front to divide them. A bloc once used a wheelbarrow appropriated 
from a construction site to front a charge that broke through police lines. Apply this 
tactic as soon as possible after you've been encircled, before they are entirely sure of the 

situation, and with maximum confidence if you want it to work. Often your best chance 
to escape will be all together as a cohesive group; this also allows you to keep your equip- 
ment and clothing in the process, so you can maintain your effectiveness as a bloc, even 
if you only choose to use it to escape. On the other hand, if you are part of a crowd that is 
moving into what you think is a trap, it may be wisest just to disappear onto the sidewalk 
and out of your bloc gear before you enter a space you can't escape. If you are hopelessly 
trapped, make sure you ditch all incriminating items before you are arrested, hopefully 
in such a way that they cannot be connected to you. 

Remember that the poHce won't be able to make mass arrests unless they have lots of 
plastic handcuffs and vans or buses in the area, so these can be a good tip-off for what to 
expect. The same goes for chemical weapons; if they're ready to use tear gas, they'll all 
be wearing gas masks themselves. 

Think about what the goals of the police will be, and how these affect your options: 
if they are trying to keep a parade route or fenced area secure, you may actually have 
free run of other areas for some time. If they are trjdng to keep a massive march under 
observation, they will have to split their forces to keep up with a breakaway march; this 
will only be difficult for them if they are unprepared in numbers, of course, but in cer- 
tain situations it may be true that ten groups of fifty are much more effective than one 
group of five hundred. There will be moments during unexpected developments when 
they are paralyzed waiting for orders; take advantage of these — but if an unusually long 
period passes without police activity, it may be an indication that they have a trick up 
their sleeves, such as a new, more heavily armed and armored force massing nearby. 

At an action the powers that be have seen coming, you can expect to be under surveil- 
lance by undercover officers, and you may have to deal with agents provocateurs, too. 

Stay aware of those around you, especially strangers; undercover agents may be easy to g, „, , (jnth ' 
identify (pairs of big men vri,th two days of stubble on their faces, nice wristwatches, and -rjj 

communications equipment), or very difficult to. Keep your companions aware of every 
person you suspect, but don't "out" undercover agents unless you are absolutely sure 
they are agents (for example, one of your scouts has been following one, and seen him 
chatting with, his coworkers), and something concrete can be gained from it. Unsub- 
stantiated accusations between demonstrators can only make situations more tense and 
demonstration environments less welcoming. As for agents provocateurs and just plain 
stupid people, they may be moving among or near you, smashing locally-owned stores 
and private vehicles; whether or not you can prove they are cops or allies thereof, you 
can certainly make it clear to them that what they are doing is unacceptable and has to 
stop. Don't get snarled up in a tactical debate in the middle of an action, just make your 
point (or, in a worst-case scenario, intervene) and get on with things. 

Stay aware of others, too, besides the police. Other demonstrators of more "liberal" 
or authoritarian bents may take it upon themselves to interfere with your activities, un- 
masking you, assaulting you, or pointing you out to authorities; the same goes for local 
civilians. It's almost never advisable to respond to this with violence; walk away, or run if 
necessary. A direct action that turns into a brawl vtdth locals or other activists is disastrous 
for everyone. Attempt to talk out differences, if this appears possible and worthwhile, 
when tempers have cooled, in a safe space removed from the immediate action; send a 
spokesperson if necessary, preferably a supporter from outside the bloc. At the least, this 
can distract the meddlers while the rest of the group moves on to other actions. 

As crazy as things get, remember that the police have firearms, and there's rarely any 

reason to risk getting killed for an action. A street confrontation vidth better-armed police 

officers is almost always going to be something more of a spectacle of confrontation than 

a nO"holds-barred, life-or-death battle. There's no shame in this. The police are restricted 

Blocs, Black and Otherwise ^" ^^^* ^^y ^^^ *^° ^Y ^^^^ public opinion will decree about it; you are limited in what 

752 you can do by a similar question, for whenever you move up to a more confrontational 

tactic the police will immediately upgrade their tactics to a level higher than yours. In 
this sense, streetfighting is a matter of chivalry for us radicals: we always permit our op- 
ponents the more powerful tools, in order to keep the violence from getting too out of 
hand — and, of course, to show off how much more noble and courageous we are! If the 
papers read (as they have before), "Violence erupted when activists began throwing back 
tear gas canisters fired by the police," it will be clear to everyone what's going on. 

Stay flexible, tactically. If you showed up in riot gear for a confrontation with the 
police, but find yourselves totally outnumbered and unprepared, you can turn the other 
direction and move through nearby neighborhoods picking up trash and beautifying the 
area — ^that'll give the media a confusing message to distort! 

Once again, all this will be very different if you are applying the bloc tactic outside the 
demonstration setting. Rather than provoking a confrontation with the police that you 
hope will be contagious, you will probably be doing everything you can to avoid encoun- 
tering them at all. Scouts, in this case, will serve more to warn you about the approach 
of the police than to monitor the lumbering movements of nearby police forces, and, 
accordingly, may be better posted at freeway overpasses or in disguise outside the liquor 
store than on bicycles. 

Escape: at the end of the action, the final remaining challenge is to get out of your 
gear and disappear. Layers, once again, are key: under your bloc clothing, you should 
be wearing clothing that will make you blend easily with whatever liberal protesters or 
civilians will be in the area. You may have to get dovm to this layer at an instant's notice: 
for instance, if the police have singled you out and are pursuing you. Make sure it's a 
quick and easy transition to make (though not one that can happen accidentally, in the 
midst of the action!). Try to do this in a mass of inattentive people, or around a corner 
or in a bush: if you're seen or caught on camera changing, all that trouble you went to 
masking up may be wasted. Hopefully you have a clever escape route or two already 

Blocs, Black and Otherwise 

planned out: an inconspicuous alley, an open space too wide for any police barricade to 
block, a fence you can climb more quickly than any police officer (see Evasion, pg. 234). 
If possible, you might want to lock a bicycle somewhere nearby, so once you've gotten 
away you can hop on that and move quickly; in urban environments, you can also try to 
get a taxi (provided they're out and about), get on the subway (though in a serious situ- 
ation this may be shut down, or the police may be checking people coming in), or duck 
into a restaurant and just eat fries in a quiet corner in your civilian disguise until things 
quiet down. Unless things have gotten really hairy, you should still be with your partner, 
if not a few members of your affinity group. 

Finally, the number one rule of all direct action: quit while you're ahead. Take things 
as far as you can, but hve to fight another day, unless this really is the Last Battle. 


Blocs, Black and Otherwise 

After the action, gather again in your affinity group at a place and time safely removed 
from danger and surveillance. Give everyone a space to share how they're feeUng. Dis- 
cuss and critique what happened, what you learned from it, what it means for the future. 
If applicable, make sure to report on your conclusions to other affinity groups who were 
involved, and seek their feedback as well. If any of you have been arrested or are facing 
other difficulties such as injury, discuss how to handle this. Celebrate your achieve- 
ments, offer emotional support, swear and plot revenge if need be. Make sure above all 
that all participants know they are loved and supported. 

Don't ever brag about your achievements in a bloc, or share anything others don't 
need to know, especially if it could incriminate someone. Keep in mind that it's possible 
you've been caught on camera and, however carefully disguised you were, identified by 
the authorities. In Sweden, a few months after a street confrontation at a meeting of 
the European Union, early one morning the police arrived at the residences of a couple 
dozen activists who had been involved and arrested them all at the same moment. That's 

a worst-case scenario — don't let it make you paranoid. Just stay aware of the dangers; if 
you're doing a lot of heavy stuff, or organizing for it, you might want to Hve in such a way 
that your enemies would be hard-pressed to know where to find you any given morning. 

Local anarchists and partisans of Earth First! wanted to make an oifensive strike against 
a biotechnology company whose crimes had not been brought to public attention (in 
fact, the corporation had bribed the local town government). There was considerable 
discussion about what tactics to use — and there was a vdde variety of tactical differences, 
with some of us committed to non-violence and others being wild militant anarcho- 
primitivists! Being from small towns in an area not known for having lots of activists, 
we had to work together to allow everyone to participate at whatever level they found 
comfortable. The non-violent folks could have dropped a banner, or someone might 
have come at night and shredded the crops, but what could be done that would allow 
us to work together, be safe, damage this evil corporation, and provide a wake-up call 
such as our placid small towns had never seen before? What better than a bloc? Who 
says we need a major mobilization or a giant antiwar protest to use such tactics? We can 
have the excitement and the action of any global day of action any day of the week in our 
own hometowns. It's not like there's more state to smash in Washington DC, Genoa, 
or Seattle than there is in our ovm. neighborhoods. Not only that, but this time the cops 
wouldn't be ready for us. 

Since we were going to combat biotechnology, it made more sense for us to dress in 
biohazard suits than in black: not only did they disguise us, but they got our message 
across by themselves. Bought in bulk, they cost less than three dollars each. The suits 
lacked face masks, so we made a quick trip down to the hospital for them. We started 
spreading news of the action to our friends byword of mouth, keeping our bloc limited 
to only those we trusted. 


Blocs, Black and Otherwise 




■ ■>(^-i-^'~.-:.^^ .. 


Blocs, Black and Otherwise 

Committed folks drove in from out of town and set up a "base camp" for the action 
at a local farm, building banners, preparing flags, and writing fliers and media releases. 
The excitement was contagious: local puppeteers brought down a gargantuan puppet 
of an indigenous farmer, a local farmer wanted to dig up the front lawn of the biotech- 
nology company to plant organic seeds. Work was spontaneously and naturally divided 
among teams. The media team made different pamphlets for different people — one 
for the corporate media, one for people driving by, even one for the employees working 
there to explain to them what was happening. As time progressed and more and more 
carloads of people drove down the dirt road to the farm, we realized that the action was 
going to be larger than we had anticipated. 

We had picked our target in complete secrecy, and only a few people knew its name 
and location. If somehow word had leaked to the biotechnology company that we were 
planning something, our action would have been ruined. Unlike many blocs at protests, 
we didn't have a horde of protesters to serve as a distraction, so the main element in our 
favor was surprise. We told everyone else to trust us — it was going to be a biotechnology 
target somewhere nearby — and that we had scoped it out. Indeed, we had discovered 
that the entire complex, one of the main research centers for this biotechnology com- 
pany, had only a few security guards! 

This company had genetically engineered com to feature "traitor seeds," seeds modi- 
fied to be dependent on their expensive pesticides. Farmers would purchase these cheap 
seeds, and then go into debt buying the pesticide, losing their land and livelihood. This 
destruction of small and indigenous farming and of biodiversity was leading to huge 
demonstrations in Brazil and India in which these crops were ripped from the ground 
and the seeds burnt, in public! These seeds were being designed right down the street — 
and no one even knew about it. The company was so smug they didn't even hire much 

security. Everyone agreed that it was a worthy target, and everyone was happy with keep- 
ing the exact location secret until the day of action. 

The night before, we went over a map, including aerial photos (easily downloaded 
from the internet) and detailed maps. We didn't give away the precise location except to 
one driver from each of the cars. People were given an all -too-quick training on unar- 
resting and bloc techniques, and communications equipment was distributed among 
the affinity groups. This lack of training, especially considering most of the participants 
had never been part of a bloc, was a great mistake. Still, affinity groups had come to- 
gether naturally over the few days before the action, everyone joining groups with close 
friends who wanted to risk the same level of arrest and participate in the same type of 
action. Without any argument or coercion, autonomous groups had formed for a truly 
diverse range of actions; climbing on the roof of the building and dropping banners, 
digging up the front yard of the biotechnology company to plant seeds, doing inde- 
pendent media work, passing out fliers on the sides of nearby highways to the traffic 
that would be snarled by the spectacle we were to create, performing in a play involv- 
ing the giant indigenous farmer puppet, acting as police liaisons (a police liaison is a 
person whose job is basically to delay the police by acting as the "spokesperson" for 
the group), and, of course, property destruction. Surprisingly, there was no predictable 
conflict about violence versus non-violence: everyone felt that they were participating in 
a collective action in which every group and every action was vital to the overall success 
of the whole project — the project at hand being to humiliate a biotechnology company 
that had counted on no one even knowing they existed. 

At the crack of dawn, everyone put on their biotechnology suits, double-checked their 
props, and jumped into their cars. We parked in the parking lots of a nearby hotel and 
family restaurant, and ran into the front yard of the massive biotechnology complex. Im- 

Bhcs, Black and Otherwise 

Blocs, Black and Otherwise 

mediately groups scrambled up onto the roof and dropped banners; other groups began 
spray painting "Fuck Biotechnology" and "Free the Seed" on the walls of the building. 
Giant banners were unfurled, and within minutes an unearthly play began, with groups 
of biotechnology-suited people and a traditionally-dressed farmer tearing up the care- 
fully manicured lawn of the company, planting organic seeds, while giant biotechnology 
corn visuals were erected facing the highway. The employees of the company must have 
thought one of their own experiments had gone horribly awry, and fled inside, locking 
their doors and staring out the windows. The security guards, vastly outnumbered, just 
watched with mouths agape. This entire action was visible from the highway, and more 
participants dressed in biohazard suits handed out fliers and carefully talked through 
the issues with passing traffic — traffic that soon ground to a halt. Within fifteen min- 
utes, our action had completely paralyzed one of the largest biotechnology companies in 
the world and had frozen traffic on one of the major highways in the United States. Of 
course, it was the cops that actually shut down the highway — maybe in fear the public 
would see the spectacle ahead. 

Of course the cops did come eventually — although, due to the element of surprise, 
we had free run of the place for almost an hour. Even when the first cops arrived, they 
realized, as the security guards had, that they were outnumbered by a large mass of ma- 
niacs in biotech suits. They tried talking to our police liaisons, who repeatedly told them 
we had to consult with each other on any decision, a delaying tactic that enabled us to 
get more of the action done — a mistake in retrospect, since that was when we should 
have re-grouped and prepared for the inevitable police assault. Even after reinforce- 
ments arrived, the cops were afraid to act until some of the businessmen came out of 
the office and whispered in their ears. A few of the officers began trying to arrest people, 
starting by arresting the only person they could identify — the farmer. Unfortunately, all 
the affinity groups were so absorbed in carrying out the actions they had planned they 

let some precious seconds pass before they could act — and by then the pohce managed 
to pepper-spray one individual in the face. However, through quick thinking, our white 
biotech suit disguises, and some ridiculously brave unarresting techniques (including 
giving cops wedgies and pulling people free from their grasp), we managed to protect 
almost everyone from arrest. 

At this point the bloc had become a very loose cluster of affinity groups, most folks 
not even spatially near each other, which played into the hands of the cops. When calls to 
"bloc up" were made, it soon became apparent most people didn't have any idea what we 
were talking about, and had little grasp that by gathering together as a larger group we 
could stand off the cops. Still, when cops came out on bikes, protesters nimbly jumped 
over fences to avoid them, leading one cop to a near-collision with the fence! For a good 
fifteen minutes pure pandemonium reigned, with cops unsuccessfully chasing protest- 
ers and protesters swarming outside the cops' grasp without evacuating the premises of 
the company. The farmer chose to be arrested non-violently while the person who was 
pepper-sprayed was finally cuffed after a considerable battle. Finally, the cops settled 
down and agreed to let us move our protest off the premises. Rescuing our giant ban- 
ners, we managed to regroup our scattered forces and make a quick getaway to our cars. 
Altogether, out of fifly-some people at the action, there were three arrests. 

We tried to make it back to our secret hideout, only to find out the city had sent un- 
dercover cops after us. After some quick driving, we escaped the police and pulled into 
a truck station — ^we had to dispose of our biotech suits, which we were still wearing! We 
went around back to an isolated dumpster and began throwing our biotech suits and 
other incriminating evidence inside. Then, to our surprise, we noticed a trucker watch- 
ing us through his shades. He gave us a thumbs-up and a shady smile. Our victory was 
all over the CB radios! 

Blocs, Black and Otherwise 

Blocs, Black and Otherwise 

Reunited at our secret hideout, we decided to march downtown to the jail. Every- 
where, people were talking about our action, at diners and in shopping centers, old men 
and young women — no one had seen it coming, and people got the message! Not only 
that, but almost everyone was supportive: "I don't believe they're putting that in our 
food," "They're messing with God's creation," "That company's just out to make money 
regardless of the cost to this town or the world." I had never before seen such a positive 
reaction to an action. When we finally got to the jail, our boring little tovm was scandal- 
ized- — as was the biotech company! 

A lawyer agreed to represent the defendants for two hundred dollars, and we raised 
the money through benefit concerts in which every style of music fi:om punk to blue- 
grass was played. In court, the cops admitted that due to everyone wearing white biotech 
suits they were unable to identify exactly who did what, so they couldn't really make any 
charges stick. At the end, the defendants were let off with community service and the 
cops even apologized! 

As in any action, there were things that went wrong and things that went right. We 
definitely had free run of the place for a while, and could have inflicted much more seri- 
ous damage on the biotechnology company than we did — at the risk of possibly ahenat- 
ing some people. Given the weight of the issue, it probably would have been worth it. 
We definitely should have done more unarresting trainings — the methods we used, like 
jumping and wrestling with cops, may be courageous, but are not recommended. We 
also could have used a good bloc training, which became distressingly obvious when 
people didn't respond to calls to "bloc up." The fifty of us together definitely could have 
stood up to the cops, but when people panicked and began running around as lone indi- 
viduals, the cops managed to nab them. Lastly, we should have had a lawj^er ready ahead 
of time (see Legal Support, pg. 329}. Still, hindsight is always clearer than foresight, and 
the creative use of bloc tactics with great public outreach made this an action people in 

our small town will be talking about for years — and one that's caused the biotechnology 
company considerable grief and expense. 

There are some that say the bloc tactic is dead, but it is only as dead as the ideas that 
give it life. Trying to repeat Seattle is going to fail: those ideas died after they were em- 
ployed, but they were well and alive at the time because they were new and creative, and 
the cops couldn't see them coming. Don't just think about previous blocs, look around 
you for living inspiration. The real question is not whether the bloc is dead or alive, but 
what new ideas we can dream up for striking the next blow against capitalism. May that 
blow be a killing one! 

Blocs, Black and Otherwise 

Blockades el Lockdowns 

Locking Down with Lockboxes 


There are many reasons to blockade; to call attention to or prevent an injustice, to sup- 
port other direct actions by securing a space or creating a distraction, to decrease traflfic 
fatalities. There are many sites that can be blockaded: highways, factory and shopping 
mall gates, business districts, the front doors of restaurants that are to host corporate 
dinners or party delegates. Intrepid blockaders can lock themselves to the equipment 
that is to destroy a forest, or lock authorities out of a building that has been occupied in 
a political action. One of the most common implements for blockading is the lockbox. 

When it comes to blockading, lockboxes are very useful, assuming you are willing to be 
arrested. The design described here has been used in several cities, including some in 
which the police are experts at "handling" protests, and all the same it can take police 
hours to move blockaders who use them from a busy street. It is one of the simplest de- 
signs; there are many other possibilities. You can make lockboxes vrith 90-degree angles 
in them that accommodate both arms of one individual, so one person can comfortably 
lock down to a gate, a truck axle, or even a railroad track. For serious engagements, you 
can make big concrete barrels with lockboxes fitted inside them, or dig a hole in the 
ground and build a vertical one-way lockbox into it with concrete and rebar, or drive a 
junker car into place, disable it, and lock down to it. 

Lockdowns can be used to stop movement into and out of an area, providing a spec- 
tacle perfect for attracting media or other attention. They can stall traffic to allow support 
teams to hold an awareness-raising rally, and distribute leaflets to or otherwise engage 

drivers stuck in traffic. After blockaders are removed from the area, police generally block 
the area for another hour or more themselves, lengthening the impact of the action. 
Lockdowns can appeal to the public by showing that people are dedicated enough to put 
their bodies on the line; they are descended from a long heritage of non-violent civil dis- 
obedience that many civilians find less threatening than other brands of direct action. 

Metal or plastic tubing or 
PIPING — such as PVCpipe 

Bolts and nuts — at least one. 
holt and one nut for each box 

Chain or rope 


Glue — optional, hut encouraged 

Bolt cutters — optional 
At least one person ready to put 
their body on the line 


A lockbox is a piece of pipe by which a person can be locked securely to another person 
or object. The average lockbox accommodates two people; with several lockboxes and 
people, you can form a human chain. 

Lockboxes utilize the width of your torso and arm-span to take up space. To lock 
down, you attach yourself to a mechanism inside a piece of pipe; in order for a police 
officer to unlock you, he would have to get his arm into the pipe as well, but as the pipe 
fits snugly around your arm, this is impossible. Should police attempt to pull you apart, 
the strain wHl be on the metal chain and bolt, not your shoulder joints, assuming your 
box is built correctly. By using a carabineer to connect to a bolt within the pipe, you are 
able to detach from the box immediately whenever you choose. With lockboxes, a group 
of people can swiftly move into a space, block it, and defy the efforts of police officers 
who would remove them. 


Blockades and Lockdowns 

Scouting the Target, 
Planning the Action 

Blockades and Lockdowns 

The first step is to scout the area you want to blockade. There are a wide variety of en- 
vironments in which you might choose to apply lockboxes, but for the purposes of this 
introduction we'll assume that you will be operating in an urban environment. You 
could blockade the entrance to an event or business, or an entrance to a tunnel, highway, 
or access ramp. The first step is to figure out where the traffic, whether it be car, foot, 
or other, can best be bottlenecked. Often, if you block one street successfully, you can 
snarl traflQc in a large area. Look for streets that lead to main roadways, and watch the 
traffic patterns. If you are planning to block a road, listen to traffic reports; determine 
which roads gridlock easily and which roads feed major transportation routes. Note all 
the details of your target, including the length of traffic lights, which lanes are open at 
certain times, and which directions the majority of cars turn. 

Once you have found the location that best serves your purposes, you'll need to de- 
termine how many people it will take to block it. If you have a well-chosen target, but 
you do not have enough people, traffic will still be able to pass, and you will simply be 
a nuisance, not a blockade; if you cannot create a "complete circuit" with your human 
chain, connecting it at either end to immovable points, it may be easy to move you out of 
the way even if the lockboxes between people are secure. To measure distances quickly 
and subtly, you can count your steps heel-to-toe across an area, or run string or yam 
across it. You'll also need to take into account the sizes of the lockboxes you are making 
and the people locking down. If a street is 20 ' wide and your lockboxes are 3' long, you'll 
probably need five or six people. 

Plan your formation carefUly. If you are locking down in a line, the two people on the 
ends can be locked to stationary objects— with bicycle U-locks around their necks, for 
example, or by a less secure means such as chain locks. If you use bicycle locks or any 
other locks that require keys, have an accomplice to spirit the key away quickly or be 
prepared to hide it where the sun doesn't shine. For a less durable blockade, you could 

leave the ends of your formation open and sit or lie down. Alternatively, you could close 
the formation at both ends, locking down in a circle, or form two lines crossing each 
other in an X. 

When planning, take into account the strain of being locked in place for a long pe- 
riod. If the lockboxes are not supported by something, those locked together will quickly 
be worn out by holding them up. There are also the matters of food and blood circula- 
tion to consider. 

Once you have worked out your plan, the next step is to gather materials. These can be 
expensive, so look around for places to acquire them for free. PVC pipe can be found at 
construction sites; chain can be cut from a locked dumpster; tools can be borrowed or 
stolen. If you do not want to draw attention, you may want to buy the supplies at multi- 
ple locations. While purchases of bolts, carabineers, and glue will not attract attention, a 
septum-pierced revolutionary may raise eyebrows if she brings thirty feet of PVC pipe to 
the counter. Rumor has it that before and during mass mobihzations, store employees 
are told to look out for such purchases. Use the same care you would for buying spray 
paint, crowbars, bolt cutters, or glass etching solution. Do not use a credit card if you do 
not wish to create a paper trail. 

Cathering Materials 


1. Cut the pipe to the appropriate length. 

2. Drill a hole all the way through both walls of the pipe at its midpoint (or there- 
abouts, depending on the differing armspans of the two who vdll be using it). 

3- Pass a bolt through both holes. 

4. Secure the bolt. 

5. Cut a length of chain to fit around your wrist and reach up to the bolt. 

Design, Construction, 
Adaptation, and Fortification 

Blockades and Lockdowns 

Blockades and Lockdowns 

6. Fasten a carabineer to the chain by which to secure it to the bolt. 

7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 for the person who will share the lockbox with you. 

8. Fortify the lockbox. 

The construction of lockboxes can be a fun group activity. Make sure the people 
who are going to use the boxes try them on and modify them according to arm length 
and other variables. How much of your arm goes inside a lockbox is a matter of pref- 
erence and tactical strategy, but on average your pipe should be about 4' in length. 
The more of your arm is covered by the PVC pipe, the more of your body is safe from 
police action. For example, if your bleep is exposed, the police could attempt to use 
pain compliance there to force you to unlock yourself; if your entire arm is in the 
pipe, this is impossible. 

Everyone's arms are unique. If you are locking down, you need to be able to put your 
arm far enough into the pipe to grab the bolt, so you can easily connect and disconnect 
your carabineer. If the people who are to use the box can be present during the construc- 
tion, measure their arms and custom-fit the pipe. If this is not possible, build the box to 
a length that almost anyone can use — say, between 3' and 4'. If you are using PVC pipe, 
it can easily be cut with a standard hacksaw. For more long-lasting lockdowns, use more 
durable piping. 

It's important that your pipe be the right diameter; you should be comfortable sliding 
your arm in at least to your bicep. Unless your arm is extremely small or large, the pipe 
should be between 4" and 6" in diameter. 

After the pipe is cut so that both people who are to use it can put their arms in as 
far as they want and touch fingers, secure a bolt at the point where their fingers touch. 
The length of the bolt should be longer than the diameter of the pipe; if you use 5" pipe, 
make sure your bolt is at least 5.5". Stay away from bolts with sharp threads or a sharp 

point on one end, unless you are prepared to modify them for safety and comfort. Your 
bolt should be thick and difficult to cut; it will probably be the weakest link in the chain, 
so you'll want to be careful to make sure it's as secure as possible. 

Drill a hole all the way through one wall of the pipe and out the other. If you have to 
drill the top hole first and then flip the pipe to drill the bottom hole, make sure the holes 
line up! Put the bolt through both holes. It should be slightly off-center in the pipe, so 
the people locking to it can fit their fingers around it and have space for their knuckles. 
Now use nuts to secure it in place; these can go inside the pipe, or outside it, or both. 
You can use powerful glue to strengthen the bolt; better yet, if you have the means, weld 
it into place. You could include multiple bolts in your design, to make it harder for the 
police to know where to start. If you have more than one bolt, you can also experiment 
with attaching yourself to all of them. 

Now you have to build the chain bracelet that secures you to the bolt inside the pipe. 
Cut a length of chain that can loop around your wrist at one end, and attach at the other 
end around the bolt in the pipe; it will be in the shape of a P. Experiment with chain 
length until you have a comfortable fit. Make the clasp that holds the chain around your 
wrist permanent and durable; use a carabineer to clasp the chain around the bolt, so you 
are able to unclasp from the lock box in an emergency. 

Attaching the chain to the central bolt with a carabineer is a very secure and safe op- 
tion, but there are others. For a simpler, though weaker, variation, skip the central bolt 
entirely and run a length of chain through the tube to attach your wrist to the wrist of 
your partner. This option might be useful if you have limited time and funding to pre- 
pare for the action. A benefit of the central bolt is that when you are pulled, the bolt ab- 
sorbs some of the force, and gripping it can provide some control; if you are connected 
to another person by a chain directly, and one of you is pulled or dragged, both of you 
will bear the brunt of it. 

Barbed wire need not only appear 
in your life as an obstacle; you can 
also apply it yourself to obstruct 
the movements of your foes. 

Blockades and Lockdowns 

Once the device is assembled, the holes drilled, the bolt secured, and the chain at- 
tached, make sure it all fits comfortably. Put some padding around the chain at your 
wrist, and pad the entrance to the tube if need be. If nothing else, wrap the chain in an old 
sock or two, and sand down the edges of the pipe to prevent it from cutting your arm. 

The final step is to fortify your creation. Many police departments now understand 
how lockboxes are constructed and know how to disassemble them. This does not mean 
locking dovm is ineffective, since it still takes the police time to react, retrieve the neces- 
sary tools, and cut apart each lockbox; but it is worth brainstorming about how to stay 
ahead of their technology. The police are likely to try to cut the pipe to expose your hand 
and the carabineer, or attack the box at the bolt. Consider ways to slow this process. You 
could wrap the lockbox in materials that dull saw blades, for example, or vidnd layers of 
duct tape and wire around it, or cover it in viscous tar and sand, or weld rebar armor to 
it — or do all of these! The more layers of material that require different forms of cutting 
technology, the better. For heavy lockboxes that can anchor you in place, you could put 
a layer of concrete around your pipe, and a layer of plastic or aluminum drain tubing 
around that. 

Practice and Transport 

Blockades and Lockdowns 

After all of the boxes are constructed, practice locking in and out of them. Do this alone 
until you have it down, then try it with a partner, locking at once into both sides of a 
box. Before an action, practice for speed and organization with everyone who will be 
involved, so things will go smoothly on the big day. To prevent confusion, you can label 
each end of each lockbox, and plan out which direction each person vidll face and the 
order in which people will lock together. It can help to have individuals involved who 
do not actually lock dovra. on the line; not only can they help get things together quickly 
at the beginning, they can also provide food and water to the people who cannot move 
their arms, and help deal with police and others. 

It can be a challenge to get all the lockboxes to the site of the lockdown. You could 
hide them nearby in advance, or bear them there in a march, disguised as puppets or 
banners. If you have access to a car, you can use it to drop off all the lockboxes at the 
very moment your group suddenly converges at the chosen site. If you are doing a long 
line, you have access to several cars, and speed is of the essence, pairs could get locked 
together in vehicles before driving to the area, then aU be dropped off at the site and 
link up in a matter of seconds. A large group of people walking any distance vidth bulky 
lockboxes vdll probably attract the wrong kind of attention, especially if the authorities 
are on the lookout for civil disobedience, although you could come up with clever ways 
to camouflage them in a pinch. 

As in all blockading, if you are blocking a road or highway that is in use, it is very 
important to stop traffic first. This can most easily be accomplished by another group 
working in concert with those who lock down; it is a lot to ask of a small group that they 
stop traffic, then lock themselves properly together while holding it at bay. Angry drivers 
can be even more dangerous than police under these circumstances; be careful not to 
give them the opportunity to do anything stupid. 

The people who have come wdth you to play supporting roles can complement your 
blockade with a rally, street party, or outreach event. If you are blocking a street, there 
will be drivers to wdtness street theater or receive pamphlets; if you're blocking the en- 
trance to an official event, there may be reporters to record you issuing your statement. 
Either way, there will be curious passersby who deserve to be told more about what's 
going on and why, and perhaps to be entertained in the bargain. If your lockdown is 
going to create a traffic jam, and you are concerned that the action might be misinter- 
preted as an attack on civilian drivers, consider distributing peace offerings such as 
homemade brovvnies. 

Once You're Locked Together 

Blockades and Lockdowns 

Those locking down can be dressed in symbolic or expressive garb — or, for that mat- 
ter, in nothing at all — or draped in a banner explaining the reason for the action. If your 
human chain is not connected to anything at the ends, you could conceivably move from 
one point to another w^hile locked together, but this will not be easy or particularly safe. 
If you are planning on moving at all, you should practice in advance, and perhaps des- 
ignate coordinators to talk everyone through certain movements or count off marching 
steps. Whether you expect this to be an issue or not, it is wise to prepare a basic com- 
munication and decision-making structure in advance, if there are more than a couple 
of you planning to lock down together. 

Police Reactions, 
Legal Consequences 

Blockades and Lockdowns 

Ultimately, there is no way to predict for sure how the police will react, so avoid spend- 
ing hours debating it in your group. It is important to have a police Haison present to 
negotiate with the authorities or at least make sure they understand the situation, and 
reporters or other witnesses to temper or at least document their behavior. If they start 
to do something that seems dangerous, calmly inform them that your arm is inside the 
tube and that you are unable to remove it, and that a team of crack lawyers eagerly awaits 
the chance to sue them into oblivion. Police will always try to intimidate you; call their 
bluff, while maintaining your composure. In a worst-case scenario, they may use pepper 
spray or a similar weapon on you — but remember, this will cost them a lot in the public 
eye, especially if you bear this persecution courageously 

If your line is anchored at each end, they may begin by trying to disengage the people 
in the anchoring roles. If they can move the entire line out of the way and work on you 
once you are no longer blocking traffic, they probably will, but this will be difficult if 
you are seated or supine. If they can't move you all, they will work lockbox by lockbox, 
cutting the line into smaller, more moveable sections. The method the police use to 

cut you out will depend on how experienced they are. No police department wants a 
lawsuit, so they will probably be careful not to injure you. If you hide the location of the 
central bolt, they will have no way of knowing where your hands are inside the tube; 
this will prevent them from simply cutting the tube in half. Often, the police will call in 
the fire department to use special tools designed for removing people from wreckage. 
Last time I locked down, the police brought special wooden frames to support our PVC 
pipe lockboxes, then slowly dismantled the boxes vrith wire cutters, saws, and various 
other tools. 

It is also difficult to predict what your charges will be when you are arrested at the end 
of your lockdown. In this author's experience, among others, the charge has been "in- 
commoding," the same charge you get for blocking a street or similar conduit with your 
body. The use of lockboxes is not a separate crime, though the police may make threats 
or try to tack on additional charges such as "possession of implements of crime" (PIC). 
In both the lockdowns in which I participated, the police told us that because we used 
the lockboxes we would be charged with an additional PIC offense, but of course, as 
police are wont to do, they were lying. PVC pipe, chain, and carabineers are not imple- 
ments of crime, no matter how you slice it. Regardless, you should have a group ready 
to provide immediate legal support (see Legal Support, pg. 329). 

Committing to a lockdown is a serious matter; you must be prepared for the ordeal 
of interacting with infuriated police officers over a protracted period of time, while be- 
ing unable to move freely; this will be followed by the further ordeal of being arrested 
and spending time in jail. Embark on a lockdown in a state of inner peace and resolve, 
properly fed and hydrated, prepared to weather storms of danger and drama — and if you 
think you might be there for a long time, wear an adult diaper! 

You can heat rocks in a fire and 
use them to blockade a road or 
thoroughfare. Use porous rocks, as 
nonporous rocks will simply explode, 
and be sure to identify them for 
everyone's safety. For the sake of 
convenience, you could set the fire, 
rocks within it, at the location to be 
blockaded, so as not to have to work 
out how to move them. 

Blockades and Lockdowns 

Other Blockading Methods 

You can obtain a lengthy audience 

with an otherwise unavailable public 

official or similar personage by 

handcuffing yourself to him or her. 

Blockades and Lockdowns 


There are many other ways to create blockades. The most traditional is to build a bar- 
ricade (see Blocs, Black and Otherwise, pg. 127). An individual who desires to lock her- 
self to something or someone can do so by putting a bicycle U-lock around her neck, 
though this requires the same support infrastructure that a traditional lockdown does. 
Extremely experienced and prepared groups can build tripods and suspend individuals 
from them, taking the civil disobedience of lockdovms to another level. Dirt roads can be 
blockaded by digging ditches across them; fencing, metal or wood poles, cables support- 
ing such poles, or other materials can be planted in them, too. If police become armous 
or confused enough, they may block off an area for you. 

When blockading a busy thoroughfare, it is important to slow traffic to a safe speed 
first, A bicycle parade (see Bicycle Parades, pg. 100) can slow to a stop, becoming a 
blockade in itself and offering the opportunity for more permanent blockading to take 
place. Old bicycles, perhaps outfitted with extra metal, could be locked together and 
abandoned as a blockade by such a parade. It is possible to set off the automatic arms 
of railroad crossings by using jumper cables to complete the circuit between little trig- 
ger vidres on the tracks. Individuals dressed as construction workers can put out traffic 
cones and barrels and wave dovra cars; for that matter, giving drivers a spectacle of any 
kind to stare at will slow them down. A banner drop over a busy highway can slow traffic 
significantly, potentially creating a traffic jam which might itself constitute a blockade 
of sorts — nothing obstructs cars like more cars! Speaking of, you can drive old junker 
cars into place and disable them (see account following Reclaim the Streets, pg. 421); be 
sure to buy them with cash from people who won't remember anything useful about 
you if the authorities come asking. They can be loaded with barricading material, which 
can be deployed from them; people can even lock down to them. Once traffic is slowed 
or stopped, you can stretch cables or fencing across highways and affix it to telephone 
poles, light posts, or guardrails. 

Don't forget that quick-drying concrete can effectively seal many gates and other 
means of access. Mix nuts and bolts or other material into it for greater durability. For 
a humorous effect in a low-risk environment, you can brick up the door of an office or 
business. Pick a quiet night, so the mortar will have enough time to dry. 

When blocking off both ends of a street or bridge, make sure you leave an exit. You 
don't want to let traffic in, but you also don't want to trap civilians — or yourself. Always 
make sure that you are not blocking access to a hospital or similar establishment. 

In the winter of 2003, before the second Gulf War began, direct action was happening 
all across the globe in an attempt to stop the war before it started and to connect the 
impending invasion of Iraq to the larger war that capitalism wages everywhere. Direct 
actions in New York City and San Francisco had shut down the Holland Tunnel and 
Financial District, respectively, and other protests were also making headlines. 

Anarchists and direct action enthusiasts in DC were organizing regular actions, while 
trying to put into place a plan that could be carried out once it was announced that 
the bombs had started falling on Iraq. Our theme was "When the War Starts, America 
Stops." We put out fliers calling for an "Emergency Response Direct Action — ^the Morn- 
ing After War on Iraq Starts." People who wanted to participate on bikes could show 
up for a "Race Against War" in Dupont circle; at the same time, people who wanted to 
participate on foot would head to the other side of tovini for a "March of Resistance" at 
the Eastern Market Metro stop. We also put out a call for groups to carry out actions on 
their own to further disrupt business as usual throughout the city. 

We've had a lot of direct actions in DC over the last few years. The state is usually 
aware when there's going to be a lot of protest activity, and the police presence is really 
intense. Given this atmosphere, just meeting up for a protest without being shut down 
from the start can be really difficult. To counter this, we came up with a complicated 


Blockades and Lockdowns 

To get a flammable barricade 

through the streets and into place, 

you can stuff newspaper soaked in 

gasoline into large cardboard boxes, 

connect them together, and drape a 

banner across them. March through 

the streets bearing this structure to 

the site that must be blocked, set it 

down, and strike a match. 

Blockades and Lockdoivns 

plan like nothing we'd done before. We would use the city's public transportation sys- 
tem and the fact that the city is wedged between two different states to our advantage. 
The march started in southeast DC, near the US Capitol. But instead of the march tak- 
ing to the streets of what is a pretty typical area of DC for protests, the crowd was led 
down into the subway station. We handed out different colored slips of paper which 
corresponded to the colors of the flags participants were to follow onto different cars 
of the same subway train. The people leading the groups into the different cars were 
responsible for making sure no one got separated from the protest and that everyone 
made it to the correct stop. On the train people sang, chanted, had conversations with 
commuters, and passed out fliers about why we were there. A lot of folks in DC ride 
the train to work at that hour, so it was a good opportunity to take our message directly 
to many people. 

After the train crossed the river into Virginia, the various color-coded groups were in- 
structed to exit at the Roslyn stop, a short walk from the Key Bridge. The Key Bridge is a 
main artery between DC and Virginia, and serves as the entrance to Georgetown, one of 
Washington's richest and most upscale shopping districts and also full of targets which 
could be related to the war. In addition, the Metro stop was only a couple of short blocks 
away from the oflices of the Boeing Corporation, another possible target with obvious 
connections to the war. 

Meanwhile, as the march headed toward tiie Key Bridge on the Virginia side, the 
Critical Mass ride was weaving its way through the DC streets to meet the march on 
the DC side of the bridge. This, we hoped, would allow us to block the bridge effectively 
from both sides and thus bring business as usual to a halt, focusing attention on the 
war begun only hours before. To add to the display of visible resistance and accompany 
our actions with precise and pointed messaging, other affinity groups, separate from the 
march and bike ride, brought banners to the bridge and hung them up around the main 

intersections while others handed out fliers detailing our reasons for shutting down the 
bridge and explaining our opposition to the war. 

Two drivers sat in junker cars near the bridge on the Virginia and DC sides, waiting 
for the word that the march and bike ride were nearing so they could get into place. 
When they learned the march was coming, both cars drove out, and stopped and parked 
at the DC side of the bridge. Originally there was to be a car on each side, but the pohce 
presence on the Virginia side of the bridge, combined with the landscape of the area, 
made a successful getaway for the driver who would have to abandon the car there seem 
very unlikely. 

The drivers parked their cars at an angle to take up as many lanes as possible, hopped 
out, moved to remove the license plates that had enabled them to drive around safely, 
and ran like hell to get away. Unfortunately, there were hundreds of cops on the DC side 
of the bridge, some of whom started chasing one of the drivers immediately. They even- 
tually caught up to him, punched him a couple of times, and threw him in the back of 
a paddy wagon. They also picked up one of the scouts who was doing communications 
on the bridge and mistook her for the guy that was driving the other car. In custody 
she heard over the radio that the cops realized their mistake. The cops then suddenly 
opened the doors to the pohce van and said, "Get out, we don't want to deal with you 
right now," and let both people go! 

Three people were arrested on the Virginia side of the bridge; we had a bail fund and 
legal support team ready to go to get them out. They were out in a couple of hours, and 
thanks to the coordination of the national lawyers guild and DCs local direct action legal 
collective, a local lawyer took the cases for free. 

Let's back up and talk about how we put this together. This action posed several or- 
ganizing challenges because of the uncertainty of when the war would start. Because of 
this, we took steps to ensure we had all the needed action roles sorted out weeks in ad- 

You can disable cars and trucks 
quickly and easily by using a stick 
to push a large raw potato into the 
exhaust pipe and out of sight (figure 
0.2). This technique can baffle even 
skilled mechanics, and once the 
potato is removed the automobile 
will work again. 

Blockades and Lockdowns 

vance. We even had understudies for some of the roles, in case certain people happened 
to be unavailable the day we needed to carry out the action. 

In the planning for the action, we secured two junker cars that would be used to help 
stop traffic from reaching the bridge. The two cars, one of which was a minivan, were 
also loaded up with big scraps of wood and metal (including a bed frame), chains, and 
locks that would be used to form barricades that would fill in the areas around the cars. 
In the vicinity of the site of the action, there were also road signs and other construc- 
tion-related barricades that could have pulled into the street. The plan was for an affinity 
group in the march to open up the cars and pull out all the materials to set up the bar- 
ricades — but it happened that the folks who were going to do this were tied up on ffie 
other side of ffie bridge by a heavy police presence. By ffie time ffiey got near ffie cars, 
ffie police had blocked them off and made them inaccessible. 

In addition to geffing drivers for ffie vehicles and people to assist in building ffie block- 
ades , we secured volunteers for several offier key roles . We had a loop of communications 
You can permanently disable people within the bike ride, ffie march, and on ffie bridge as scouts, as well as folks on 
an automobile by pouring site in advance to check for any early police presence. Cell phones were used to insure ffie 
sugar in 1 s gas tan . simultaneous arrival of boffi ffie march and ffie Critical Mass ride. We also had a couple 
of people set to lead ffie various risk levels of ffie march: ffiose who couldn't risk arrest 
followed one color flag to a support rally across ffie street, while ffiose who could engage 
in blocking ffie street followed anoffier. While our ultimate goal was for no one to be ar- 
rested, we wanted to make sure ffiat ffiose for whom arrest was not an option were able to 
participate as well and feel comfortable participating. Action medics and legal observers 
accompanied ffie march, and the variety of roles allowed for those who could not engage 
directly in ffie blockades to take on equally active and important roles. 
Blockades and iockdowm "^^^ P^^^ ^^^ largely organized in public, so the police presence awaiting us was 

176 unavoidable. Only a handful knew the full details of where we would end up, but un- 

fortunately that must have been leaked. Had we done a better job of keeping the target 
point a secret, we might have had more time to get things in place; on the other hand, 
the bridge we picked is one of the main entrances to the city, and it may have had a large 
police presence regardless. 

However, the bridge was completely shut dovm. for about 30 minutes, and partially when puncturing tires, aim for the 
shut down and made into a spectacle for hours after that. It was a nasty day cold and ^idewali; if you want to be sure the 
►rn ^- j-j ;^ ..■ 7 1 11-1 IT 1 , spare won't help, you can puncture 

pouring ram. The action didn't entirely go as planned— the idea was to shut down both ^^ \^^^^ ^^ of them. 

ends of the bridge and have a street party against the war in the middle. Instead, the 
police cleared all of us from the bridge pretty quickly. But it was shut down, our mes- 
sage against the war and business as usual was all over the news, and the action clearly 
affected the morning commute to work. In addition, we gained useful experience for 
our future endeavors. 

Blockades and Lockdowns 

Classroom Takeover 


Optional Ingredients 


or other institution of "highef education 

An interesting video 
Educational packets 

a few interesting, intelligent 


Pamphlets, 'zines, posters, 

OTHER propaganda 

Procure a Classroom 

Instructions We stumbled onto this recipe quite accidentally. Essentially, it involves assuming the 
role of professor in a university class. Traditional methods of propaganda distribution 
often fail to reach those outside the various radical ghettoes, but students — as our stud- 
ies have shown! — are unusually likely to pay heed to subversive propaganda, if it is is- 
sued by a professor or person supposedly acting in one's stead. 

This is the most difficult step in this recipe, but here are some tips that will get you in 
front of a class in no time! First, try this recipe on the first day of classes at a university; 
no one in the class will know what the professor looks like, so you can pull this off with- 
out even making up an excuse as to why you are there. Second, at many universities, if 
a professor gets sick or is otherwise absent unexpectedly, an official notice will be placed 
on the door of that classroom. It is possible to walk around a university, locate one of 
these notices, and remove it. The notification should include at least the class section 
„g number, and probably the time the class is scheduled to take place — if the time is not 

included, check the university's class listing, which can usually be found in the campus 
library or bookstore, or online. Come back at the assigned time, tell everyone that you 
are filling in for the professor, and do your worst. Another way to weasel your way into a 
professorship — this is the method we used — is to become friends with some professors 
at the local university. Professor friends are likely to call on you to conduct class in their 
absence. Usually, they'll just ask you to perform some menial task such as showing a 
bore-you-to-tears movie or passing out a syllabus, but hey, they're not going to be there! 
This latter technique is a bit more time-consuming, but in a college town, professors 
are powerful allies to have. The third and least-recommended option (read "only for 
reformist suckers") is to go through somewhat more than two decades of schooling and 
actually get hired as a professor. 

If you can borrow a student's meal 
plan card, you can go into a college 
cafeteria with a backpack and 
come out with enough food to feed 
yourself and some companions 
for a few days. Failing that, you 
might be able to sneak in — if just 
walking in purposefully (to retrieve 
your forgotten backpack, of course) 
doesn't work, try looking for the 
handicapped access elevator, the 
emergency exit, or the employee 

First, imagine they're all naked. Second, calm down; students, like bears, lions, and 
other wdld mammals, are more afraid of you than you are of them — ^honest! 

Seriously, though, this is where the fun begins. From here, your imagination is the 
only limit. You could give a lecture on armed guerrilla struggles in Francoist Spain after 
the civH war, or offer a skillshare on graffiti techniques. You could facilitate a workshop 
on gender subversion, or pass out instruments and hold a jam session. Whatever you 
do, we highly recommend you have some radical literature on hand — they will pick it 
up and read it. Also, in discussions, don't shoot dov^m everything students bring up that 
you don't agree with — even if you disagree with it very strongly. What we found is that 
this v^dll polarize the class against you- — ^people wUl stop listening and discussion vrill 
cease. Instead, initially pretend to agree to some of these things, then later come back to 
these things and show why they are wrong without mentioning the original comment. 
Remember, a student's ego is a fragile thing; if you can avoid bruising it and still make 
your point, everyone wins. 

Oh Shit, I'm Standing 
in Front ofi§o Voracious 
College Kids, Now What?! 

Classroom Takeo\/er 


(f you can't use the internet to get 

free recordings of your favorite songs, 

go to a local college radio station, 

act like you work there, and tape 

whatever records you want. 

For free cassettes, you can write to 

Christian evangelical groups asking 

for listening material. 

Classroom Takeover 

At the beginning of the semester, a socialist professor of political science (the sole rep- 
resentative of "radicalism" at the university here) whom we had befriended over the last 
few years gave us a call. He told us that he was in France and wouldn't be back for the 
first two weeks of class. He asked if we would handle his classes for the time that he was 
gone, and hand out syllabi. We agreed — and it was on. Instantly we had three classes, 
six class periods, and something like 400 students to lead astray. 

None of us knew exactly what we were going to do, though we agreed simply passing 
out the syllabus wouldn't suffice. We had nebulous notions of distributing propaganda 
through the classes, so we pulled out all our pamphlets, 'zines, and posters, and went 
about producing a "reader." Teachers often pass these out: they usually consist of photo- 
copied excerpts from boring-as-hell intellectuals. Our reader was a wonderful thirty-six- 
page packet including selections from Fighting for Our Lives, Days of War, Nights of Love, 
Orwell's Homage to Catalonia, the Situationist pamphlet On the Poverty of Student Life, 
and similar works. We hurriedly compiled this packet in the hours leading up to our first 
class. Over a hundred were produced and distributed during our litde experiment, and 
they seemed to go over very well. 

The first few classes we taught were somewhat sketchy. Our propaganda distribution 
went very well, but our lesson plan was — ^well, almost nonexistent. It all came together 
in our fourth class, though. This was a three-hour-long evening Introduction to Civics 
class hosting 150 students, many of whom were freshmen, so we knew we could prepare 
a lot of material. The original plan called for one of our number— we'll call him Ted— to 
give a lecture on the connections between the CIA, drug importing, and the Bush family, 
then show the video Breaking the Spell, and end with a discussion session. As the class 
started, it occurred to us that the VCRs and projectors were all either locked or required a 
code. This problem was easily solved when we realized that there was a big sticker on the 
phone reading, "Call X8105 for assistance with the multimedia devices." So, we called. 

Us: "Uh, We're filling in for our professor tonight, and he asked us to show a video, 
but we don't have the keys. Can you corae unlock it?" 

Tech Guy: "Okay, do you have the code for the control box?" 

Us: "Uh, no." 

Him: "Argh, damn professor didn't prepare you at all . . . I'll be right over." 

Within ten minutes, the multimedia problems were solved. 

As it turned out, Ted was late, so we showed the video first. Now, when I say that, what 
1 mean is we walked into the room without saying a word to the class, put in the video, 
and played it. For those who have not seen Breaking the Spell, it should be said that it is a 
militant anarchist account of the Seattle WTO protests. Within about five minutes, cops 
were cracking skulls and anarchists were breaking windows, and in the classroom there 
were about loo unsuspecting students with their jaws on the floor. The gasps heard 
through the next hour as protesters were viciously beaten on screen made it clear to me 
that we were getting our point across. 

The movie ended and the class seemed in shock. Ted had arrived by this point and 
promptly assiuned his very natural role of discussion moderator and social lubricant. 
He told the class that anyone who wanted to leave should {a very smart thing to do) and 
some did, but many stayed. Then we asked the class what they thought of the mov- 
ie. Then someone asked, "What was the point of showing the movie?" I was about to 
respond with some sort of polarizing and cliched rant about the inherent violence of 
capitalist systems and the need to disassemble them, when Ted saved me from myself 
"Why do you think we showed it?" he responded. This sparked an hour and a half of 
some of the best classroom discussion I had ever been a party to. 

It should be mentioned here that the success of this discussion had a great deal to do 
with the dynamics of the group we had "teaching" class that night. There were four of 
us there that evening. One of our number sat in the audience and acted in a capacity that 

The first week of college classes, 
you can hold a "radical rush," in 
which activists maintain a constant 
public presence on and around 
campus, informing students of all the 
options they have for participating in 
liberating or subversive activities. 

If you are a high school student, 
you can steal the attendance book, 
arrange to takeover the intercom • 
system to make an important 
announcement, lock alarm clocks 
set to go off at random times in 
unused lockers, coordinate with other 
students to arrange for everyone 
to fail a test for which some are 
unprepared, or organize a walkout to 
protest a local or world issue or just 
give expression to the rage students 
feel about their incarceration. 
Remember, you can getaway with a 
lot before you're legally an adult. 

Classroom Takeover 

If you are a high school student in 

the United States, you can probably 

get your school to pay for you to take 

college classes, if the classes aren't 

available at your school. 

You can use universities as a 

source of funding for your projects. 

Encourage your friends who are 

enrolled in college to join or form 

student organizations, and have those 

organizations book you or a comrade 

for a speaking engagement, with the 

school budget footing the bill. 

we hoped, would convince some students that they too are perfectly capable of being radi- 
cal. Two of us are land of scary-looking fiick-shit-up no-compromise kind of anarchists. 
Ted, on the other hand, looks almost like a coUege student himself, and while he harbors 
many of the same ideas as us, he presents them in a much subtler, more pacifistic man- 
ner. He also works in a cafe, where he talks and talks and talks to all kinds of people with 
all kinds of political ideologies, so he is quite a bit better than the rest of us at getting his 
point across in a sugarcoated way. Discussion often turned out like this: One of the more 
militant of us would present a polarizing radical opinion in some scary militant fashion. 
The students would gasp and be like, "No! Never! I'll never believe you, you dirty, violent 
criminals!" Then Ted would jump in and be hke, "Well, I wouldn't really advocate that ex- 
actly, but they are correct that ..." and then he'd explain it more thoroughly in a manner 
more familiar to the students. This allowed us to present views that were a world away 
from the views that the students held, but in a way that bridged the gap so that they could 
see where we were coming from — and where we are going! 

The class ended with Ted shovidng a video about the US government's compHcity in 
the September ii* terrorist attacks. Some left gritting their teeth, but all were contempla- 
tive, and even our most ardent ideological foes stopped after class to congratulate us on 
"the most interesting class they'd ever had." Oh yeah, and they took all our pamphlets. 

You can still get ainnost all the books 

you need at the library, especially 

if you ask them to order the ones 

they're missing; many libraries also 

have free video borrowing. 

Classroom Takeover 

Coalition Building 

Assembling coalitions is a way to foster solidarity and build social power. Good coali- Instructions 

tions enable people from a broad range of perspectives and demographics to work to- 
gether and benefit from their differences. Affinity groups and collectives can be power- 
ful on their own, and even more powerfiil when they work together — but when such 
groups find common cause with people from other organizing traditions and walks of 
life, a new range of possibilities opens. 

Coalition building can enable activists to move beyond the limitations of outreach. 
When you have much in common with others, it makes sense to invite them to consider 
your viewpoints and join in your activities. But the less similar your context and needs 
are to theirs, the more important it is for you to avoid recruiting and focus on building 
alliances; this means finding ways to make your separate projects complement one an- 
other, and to pursue goals together even when your motivations diverge. Assuming that 
your group has figured out the one right way to do things and that everyone else should 
drop everything and join you is bound to be ineffective, not to mention exasperating. 
Such an attitude is often a holdover from hierarchical conditioning: people from the 
social classes that are accustomed to organizing and directing everyone else sometimes 
unthinkingly attempt to retain this role even in the stiruggle against hierarchy, casting 
themselves as the branch managers of the revolution. 

There's a lot of radical sentiment out there that doesn't go by any name familiar to 
those who consider themselves radicals. Likewise, two self-proclaimed anarchists, how- 183 

ever similar their rhetoric may be, are as likely to be at odds in fundamental ways as each 
is to have desires in common with others who put less stock in self-categorization. Un- 
ruly youth whose hatred of restraints is derived from their daily lives, irate housecleaners 
who've never heard of anarcho-syndicalism, local religious communities that share your 
ethics if not your cosmological views, these are potential allies with much to offer to a 
hberation struggle, even if they don't frame that struggle the way you do. Besides, if you 
really are fighting for universal liberation, you'll do well to get experience working with 
people of all walks of Hfe, learning in the process what liberation means to each of them. 

Getting Started So you're convinced that there are worthwhile goals that cannot be achieved by affinity 
groups alone, and you're ready to link up with other groups and communities. But with 
whom will you form your coalition? How do you find the allies you need? 

One way to do so is to become an ally to others. Find out what projects and campaigns 
others in your area are working on, pick the ones you want to support, and inquire as to 
how you and your friends or your group can help (see Solidarity, pg. 489). Especially in 
the case of people from demographics more marginalized, impoverished, or oppressed 
than your own, you may have access to resources that can be of great use in their strug- 
gle. There's a lot to be said for following the leads of those who suffer the inequalities 
and iniquities of the capitalist system more immediately than you, whenever they take 
action to resist it. And who knows — if you offer meaningful, consistent support, they 
may eventually take an interest in supporting your projects in return, especially if what 
you're doing is actually relevant to their lives. 

To learn what other activists are doing in your area, you'll probably have to look be- 
yond the forums and media with which you are most familiar. Just as the predominantly 

Coalition Building white anarchist scene has word-of-mouth and email networks that are fairly self-con- 
184 tained, other commxmities have their own channels of communication. If you're orga- 

nizing on the campus of a private school, for example, and you're not aware of any radi- 
cal homeless activists in your town, that doesn't mean there are none — ^you just aren't 
looking where they are. 

Approach groups and individuals that are already active with whom you can establish 
common goals. These could range from short-term goals, such as getting a racist sheriff 
fired, to broader goals like abolishing warfare, exchange economics, and fluorescent 
lighting once and for all. Find starting places, points of unity on which to base your co- 
operation, and open a dialogue about what you can do together. Remember how much 
you can learn from established local organizers: they probably have valuable organizing 
skills and knowledge about the lay of the land. Older activists in particular may have 
been doing what they do in their community for a lot longer than you have. 

At the same time, don't limit yourself to seeking out alliances with other self-professed 
activists! You probably know many different circles of people who have never thought of 
themselves as being politically committed or active, with whom you can accomplish great 
things if the right opportunity comes up. The regulars at the local bar might be glad to 
join you in driving fascists out of their neighborhood (see Antifascist Action, pg. 35); a local 
pottery-making group might jump at the chance to share their wares or offer instruction 
at a Really Really Free Market (see Festivals, pg. 241); a local graffiti crew might be willing 
to help you spread an announcement (see Graffiti, pg. 258), 

Stay abreast of what people are doing in different social circles, and brainstorm about 
how their activities cotdd be connected to overtly or subtly radical projects. Cross-pol- 
linating is the essence of coalition building; the more you can mix divergent social 
milieus and perspectives, the better. Don't lament the limitations of your local radical 
network while ignoring the other communities to which you are connected: everyone 
is linked to others in a variety of ways — spatial, cultural, occupational, familial — and 
so has a variety of starting places for finding unexpected allies. If you once played on a 

If quitting your job leaves you with 
more time on your hands than you 
know what to do with, you can baby- 
sit for single parents. If you have a 
circle of dependable volunteers, you 
could organize an alternative day care 
collective — there's a real shortage of 
those these days. 

Coalition Building 

Attitude and Approach 

Coalition Building 

rugby team with a bunch of fraternity members, don't try to bury that episode in the past 
out of embarrassment — ^you might one day stumble across the perfect venture to invite 
them to join. 

Above all, be sincere, reliable, and supportive with those around you, and patient and 
respectful with everyone you meet. Coalitions are built on strong relationships between 
individuals, and building these takes time and trust. If you are known as a good friend and 
a good neighbor, people will take you seriously when you approach them with a proposal. 

When you set out to build coaHtions, it's important to accept the cultural, tactical, and 
strategic ways in which others' groups differ from the groups with which you identify; 
what matters is what you have in common, and what you can do together without com- 
promising yourselves or each other. Similarly it's important to accept things people do 
in their own lives that diverge from the standards of your subculture. You may be a strict 
vegan who never buys from corporations, rides in motor vehicles, or sleeps indoors, but 
people who do all these things may be involved in projects that are at least as subversive 
as anything you've ever done. If you can put cultural differences aside, it will be easier 
to build the relationships that make coalitions possible. 

When meeting new potential alHes — that is to say, anyone— don't tolerate disrespect, 
but resist the temptation to pass judgment immediately As time passes and you see 
people in action, you'll come to know them for the multi-faceted individuals they are. 
Then, if you still feel that something needs to be said about their conduct or attitudes, 
you'll be acquainted with their good and bad qualities and the context of their actions, 
and will be able to comment in a way they can take to heart — or, at the worst, at least 
you'll know you're doing the right thing by making a scene. 

Keep in mind that every group is made up of a wide range of individuals with a wide 
range of ideas — not everyone in a union thinks the same way as the president of the union 

local, for example. Don't assume that any one individual can represent the perspectives of 
those you presume to be his or her peers, don't project his or her views onto others. 

Everyone is in a developmental process of his or her own, making decisions for rea- 
sons that may not be apparent from a distance. Trust that people know what's best for 
themselves, even when you don't understand their choices. Though you may not always 
agree with the ways people go about standing up for themselves, it's still worth support- 
ing this wherever it happens — it is thus that people win victories, forge relationships, 
and come to learn from one another. 

Take care to respect others' time limitations and schedules. People on the receiving 
end of capitalist oppression and repression must struggle for their own survival and the 
survival of their communities, and consequently tend to be extremely busy. Often the 
best approach is to go to events others organize, both to support them and to learn what 
their goals are and how they are pursuing them. 

At the same time, keep your activities as open as possible, so if others want to take 
part, they can. Hold meetings at convenient times and accessible places, be friendly and 
welcoming, and make sure newcomers understand what's going on and how they can 
participate. Maintain healthy internal dynamics, so potential participants will not feel 
excluded, belittled, or oppressed. 

How can you be a good ally to other communities? One way to get started is to get your 
own community together and active. In the long run, an entire community can provide 
more and better support to another community than any isolated individual ever could. 
Often, activists who are frustrated that their communities are not providing meaningful 
support to other communities throw out the baby with the bathwater, giving up on the 
possibility that their own communities might ever offer such support and instead set- 
tling for offering it alone on an individual basis. This is shortsighted. Your allies don't 

Building Bridges 

Coalition Building 

just need your money, volunteer hours, or spray painting skills — most of all, they need 
the link you offer to an entire social circle of people similar to yourself, people who 
might also be able to find common cause with them. 

Therefore, though it may seem insular or even isolationist, in the long run it can be 
beneficial for other communities as well as your own if you focus energy on building up 
infrastructure, relationships, and consciousness in your immediate social circles. Work- 
ing in your own community is what you are equipped to do best, anyway, and can be the 
most efficient application of your time and energy. If, for example, radical individuals 
in an apolitical punk rock scene refuse to desert it to pursue traditional service-oriented 
activism, but instead stay connected to that social base and do the work necessary to 
politicize it, that scene can eventually become a place in which young people develop an 
awareness of the perspectives and circumstances of those of other walks of life, and in 
which well-attended benefit shows that support the organizing efforts of people from 
other communities are held regularly. 

When it comes to attracting diverse groups to a coalition, sometimes the most effective 
approach is to expand incrementally, approaching immediately adjacent communities 
with whom you have much in common, rather than attempting to start at the opposite 
end of the spectrum. Once there is some diversity in a coalition, it can be easier to gain 
more; at the same time, be careful not to let a monoculture develop in your coalition that 
would put off groups that have little in common with the others involved. It's a good rule 
of thumb to involve groups in projects from the very beginning, rather than approach- 
ing them once things are already in motion when it will be difficult for them to feel a 
sense of ownership. Regardless of how you go about reaching out to others, whatever 
you do will work best if it's based on existing relationships and natural affinities. 
Coalition Building Within diverse coalitions, it's generally a good policy to defer decision-making to 

i88 those most affected. People of color, for example, have more at stake when it comes to 

police brutality issues than the average white person does. It makes sense for them to be 
the main decision-makers in local struggles against police brutality, because in the long 
run they will likely be the most affected by the decisions. 

To be a good ally, you must be consistent and reliable: do what you say you'll do, don't 
suddenly disappear, keep coming back. Over time, this will build trust, and a stronger 
working relationship from which future projects can grow. 

Choose issues that are close to your heart, and stick with them. Many organizers of 
color have spoken about how white activists often have the liberty to pick and choose 
which issues to address and when. They have said that when these white activists get 
burned out, or want to move on to a more trendy issue or just hit the road, they just 
disappear. If you absolutely have to leave, make sure you let your fellow organizers know 
in advance. Figure out ways to have your responsibilities and roles covered while you're 
gone, stay in touch, and get back into action when you return. 

Don't just go to groups when you need something from them. Go to support what 
they're doing, and stay involved in their projects for the long haul. Insofar as you share 
goals, what's good for them is good for you. 

Hang in there even when you don't like some of the things going on. If you hear sex- 
ist, homophobic, or otherwise bigoted speech — ^which can happen or not happen in any 
social context, regardless of common stereotypes or expectations — remember it's okay 
to feel uncomfortable for a minute. Again, everyone is learning and growing, and what 
one person says does not represent the whole group. If you stay as an ally and build a 
strong relationship, what you have to say about it later on will be more meaningful. 

Get to know your allies as people, not just as organizers who give you access to a 
certain community or who play a part in your political strategy. Enjoy the people you 
meet in the course of your organizing, share parts of yourself with them as it becomes 

Stick Around 

Coalition Building 

Coalition Building 

natural, build personal relationships as well as organizing alliances. At the same time, 
if someone doesn't want that with you, don't push it. 

As your relationships with people outside of your usual circles become stronger, 
you may get to the point where it makes sense to talk about your poHtical differences 
in order for the relationships to grow. Don't go into these discussions expecting to 
change anyone. Look on such conversations as opportunities to learn as well as teach. 
Ultimately, coalition building is a way not only to connect with others for political expe- 
diency, but also to expand ourselves. 


While an affinity group is a transitory structure based on existing collaboration and Instructions 

friendship (see Affinity Croups, pg. 28}, a collective is a more permanent institution in 
which collaboration can take place and friendships can develop. Individuals may pass in 
and out of different collectives, like blood circulating through organs, but the collectives 
remain, offering continuity and infrastructure. 

A collective might be a closed circle, such as a clandestine wheatpasting team (see 
Wheatpasting, pg. 598), or a more fluid, open arrangement in which anyone can partici- 
pate, such as a Food Not Bombs group (see Food Not Bomfys, pg. 248). Often, as in the case 
of an anarchist folk band that takes different roadies with them every time they go on tour, 
the format is somewhere between these extremes. Collectives can serve the needs of the 
individuals who comprise them, as a reading group does, or the needs of their commu- 
nity, as a women's health care collective does (see Health Care, pg. 275), or those of other 
communities, as a prisoner support group does in mailing out books to the incarcerated. 
At best, everyone who comes into contact with a collective ends up both participating and 
benefiting in some way; that's tiie whole idea of thinking and acting collectively 

Affinity groups and collectives can be distinguished from other organizational struc- Cooperation and Consensus 

tures in that they are explicitly non-hierarchical. Ideally, all participants have an equal 

say in the activities of the group. There are no leadership positions; every effort is made 

to keep power and influence from being centralized in the hands of any individual or 797 

faction. Decisions are made by consensus rather than by vote, so they meet with the ap- 
proval of all involved. 

In this v/ny, affinity groups and collectives provide a foundation for individual au- 
tonomy in collective action. For this to be possible, though, they must themselves be 
built on a foundation of supportive and liberating relationships. Egalitarian structures 
and procedures cannot substitute for sensitivity and goodwill; at best, they can only 
smooth the way for these. As so many of the important aspects of any collaboration are 
determined informally, participants in collectives must seek to nourish in themselves 
the attitudes and habits necessary for coexistence and cooperation to come naturally 

Expandable Autonomous Zones Rather than increasing the resources or power of individuals, collectives build shared 

power. In a competitive system, Hfe is a zero-sum game, in which one can only pros- 
per at the expense of others; in the cooperative system collectives seek to employ, on 
the other hand, the more everyone invests, the more everyone benefits. Likewise, in 
establishing and nurturing a collective, individuals do not amass power for themselves 
alone, but instead build a structure from which all might benefit. The wealth a collective 
generates is not the kind of currency one can use to purchase an insurance pohcy; it is, 
ratiier, the long-standing emotional bonds and networks of mutual aid that can provide 
for people's needs even when insurance policies fail. 

At their best, collective projects are contagious, spreading collaborative spirit and struc- 
tures to all who encounter them. They may do so by welcoming new participants into their 
ranks, or by demonstrating the advantages of methods others can make use of themselves. 

Harmony, Not Unity Many activists approach collective projects with the idea that in order to work together, 

Collectives ^^ °^ appear sincere, or accomplish great things, all members of a collective must share 

792 a specific political platform, a certain lifestyle, and a strict code of conduct. And you 

thought the pressure to conform was bad in high school! So-called radical ideologies 
such as Communism that neglected to do away with hierarchy have historically de- 
manded such standardization from their ranks, and have ended up with consequently 
sterile movements, artwork, and societies; anarchist thinking, on the other hand, sug- 
gests that diversity is necessary to any healthy ecosystem or organization. Greater di- 
versity offers a wider range of inspiration and ideas to draw on, and makes your group 
more adaptable; and since human beings are always different, even when they try to 
homogenize themselves, any value system that encourages conformity can only spawn 
dishonest and superficial relationships and projects. 

A collective of would-be clones can do one thing well, at best; a circle of unique indi- 
viduals can do many differing things that complement each other. The best collectives 
are the ones that engage the sum total of all the different members have to offer, not 
the ones that limit themselves to applying only what their members have in common. 
Just as a band needs musicians who play different instruments, healthy associations 
don't restrict the participants with compromises that force them to limit themselves to 
the things they have in common, but instead integrate their dissimilarities into a whole 
greater than the sum of its parts. 

Working and living in such arrangements, in which every person is conscious that 
she is responsible for making the projects and relationships work, helps one learn to 
see oneself as a part of the web of human relations, rather than as an isolated individual 
against the world. Under these ciromistances, others' desires must be taken as seriously 
as one's own. This can actually allow an individual to be a more complete person, as her 
companions can represent parts of herself for her that she would not otherwise express. 
Ultimately, everyone is a product of the same world, anyway— we are all interconnected, 
each of us manifesting different aspects of the same interplay of forces. Without this 
insight, our cooperation and community can only be incidental and haphazard. 

You can take advantage of the 
thousands of different attempts 
people have already made to 
establish community — neighborhood 
associations, punk rock scenes, 
bowling leagues, Alcoholics 
Anonymous meetings, church 
choirs, high school clubs, student 
organizations, knitting circles, 
hobby groups — as starting points 
from which to work toward broader 
communities that are more radical, 
durable, and ambitious. Consider 
which communities you already have 
ties with. Don't abandon these in 
search of more radical communities — 
stick around to radicalize them. 


Eventually, for the individual experienced in living communally and acting collec- 
tively, it becomes possible to regard the entire cosmos as one vast, albeit dysfunctional, 
collective; the problem is simply how to make its workings more to one's liking. This is 
not to say that fascists or sexists can go about their merry business and be "part of our 
collective" — ^they'd be the first ones to deny that, and follow it up with proofl But the 
chief argument of fascism and reactionary thinking has always been that cooperation 
and autonomy are mutually exclusive, that people have to be ordered and controlled or 
else they will do nothing but be lazy and kill each other. The more we can demonstrate 
that this is untrue, the less appeal their claims will have. 

Dit/ersity Starting from diversity is as important as fostering it. Everyone is unique, of course, 
and it can happen that there is more divergence of personality, skills, and experience 
between two people of the same background than between individuals from differing 
demographics — ^but that said, it can be a great thing for a collective to include members 
of different genders, ages, social classes, and cultures. When people from such differing 
backgrounds learn to understand and respect each other's perspectives, complement 
each other's strengths and weaknesses, and form symbiotic relationships on the basis of 
their differences, that's revolution in action, even if it's just a handful of people at first. 
This is not to say that you should recruit people for your collective on the basis of race 
or gender alone — that can come across as patronizing, to say the least — but rather that 
traveling in diverse circles, and drawing on the friendships that develop naturally within 
those circles to undertake collective projects, are in your best interest. 

Of course, collectives composed of members with viddely differing degrees of privi- 
lege will have to work extra hard on learning to interact as equals {see Undermining Op- 

Colkctiues pression, pg. 560). Oppressive patterns — middle class people tending to take over the or- 
ic)4 ganizing, working class people to do the physical labor, men to make decisions in ways 

that exclude women, and so on — come with us into our collectives from the hierarchical 
world that raised us; let's make these groups social laboratories in which we learn how 
to break these patterns, in preparation for breaking that world. 

The proportions of different demographics within a collective often have a great influ- 
ence over its internal dynamics. For example, it's best that there be at least two people who 
identify as women in every collective, if possible: an all-male group will inevitably lack cer- 
tain important perspectives, and a lone woman in a group of men is going to have to deal 
with a lot of frustration on her ovwi. All-woman groups, on the other hand can be inspiring 
for others, and can function as "safer spaces" that are more comfortable for the participants 
than working in mixed company {again, see Undermining Oppression, pg. 560). 

Commitment is to collectives what bottomlining is to affinity groups; it is the bedrock 
on which communities can build their power and organize themselves. When you give 
up all the false riches and reassurances of the capitalist protection racket, you'll need 
this from each other more than anything else. 

The world we live in, or rather, what world we live in, depends entirely upon our in- 
vestments: we go on living in this world of sales, wages, rent, and cages because every 
day, people wake up and — seeing no other viable option — invest their energy and inge- 
nuity in surviving vidthin its structures, thus perpetuating them. If you can somehow 
invest yourself in creating and perpetuating another world, that world will exist at least 
to the extent that you exist — that's the logic of living a radical lifestyle. Now, one person 
alone living and believing against the grain can barely survive, let alone make a real im- 
pact; but a small tribe of people who reinforce and sustain one another can thrive, and 
help others open doors to new worlds of their own. 

Anarchist communities, at their best, are networks of such tribes, all trading sup- 
port and inspiration with each other and helping plant seeds that could grow into new 



realities. The most decisive element in determining what a given community can and 
cannot do is the commitment of its participants. A group of people v^rho are ready to 
go through anything together, who know they will be faithful to each other and their 
dreams through the hardest of times, need not be perfect; as time passes, they will learn 
what they need to learn and improve where they need to improve. 

When you're considering who to work with, characteristics like experience, technical 
proficiency, and access to equipment should be secondary — a person who has none of 
these but is possessed by a burning desire to accomplish great things can acquire them 
eventually. Likewise, if you want to get anywhere working in cooperative groups of any 
kind, the most important characteristics you can develop in yourself are commitment, 
dedication, reliability, and responsibility. Don't let people down, no matter what chal- 
lenges you encounter. Let others know through your actions that they can count on you 
in everything you undertake together. 

Three people can share and minimize rent and food costs, cover a tovm in posters 
and graffiti, and organize a part-time childcare collective; ten can cultivate a community 
garden, operate an infoshop or newspaper, and form a radical marching band; one hun- 
dred can transform a neighborhood into an autonomous zone, organize city-stopping 
demonstrations, and fan out across the country to share those skills with ten thousand 
more — but it all comes down to commitment! 

Dimion of Labor, 
Specialization, and Power 


In seeking to prevent both internal strife and the centralization of power, collectives will 
do well to be leery of long-term division of labor. An estabhshed division of labor means 
that every member becomes specialized in his or her particular tasks — and, often, in the 
accompanying role associated with those tasks. Once the members of a collective have 
settled into different roles, they tend to develop conflicting needs and perspectives, and 
an imbalance of power often follows. 

For an offbeat example of the pitfalls of too much specialization, let's look at a common 
but oft-neglected example of the collective: the political punk or rock band. Many poHtical 
bands experience an internal disorder in which a rift develops between the singer and the 
other members. Already likely to be outgoing and expressive by temperament, the singer 
finds himself in the role of spokesperson for the whole band: he is expected to compose 
lyrics and accompanying song explanations, field the majority of interview questions, 
and introduce the songs while other band members fine-tune their instruments. All this 
serves to reinforce the singer's inherent authoritative tendencies — ^let's not kid ourselves, 
we all have some — until he starts to take the power of his position for granted. 

The best analogy to use here is the Communist State: the singer becomes the Party, 
whose White Man's Burden it is to educate the Masses, starting of course with the Pro- 
letariat of his own band: the other members, the ones who actually manufacture the 
useful product — the music. He, of course, is only giving voice to the politics they aheady 
hold unconsciously: he is the Vanguard, and this gives him the important responsibili- 
ties of managing their labor, representing their interests, issuing statements on behalf 
of the group, and so on. 

Being able to express one's feelings in words, to speak one's mind publicly, to articu- 
late complex ideas on the spot, all these are valuable skills to have — the problem is not 
that the singer in this example exercises these, but that the specialization within the 
traditional band format tends to develop these skills in this one person and not in the 
others. The singer may well be saying and organizing things that need saying and orga- 
nizing, and he or she may for that matter be the one who takes the most responsibility 
for important matters such as the relationship between the band and other people— but 
this specialization is not usually sustainable, and never healthy. Tensions develop be- 
tween the different class strata of the band, now that they have different interests accord- 
ing to their different roles. 

You can organize rent strikes to 
make your landlord take care of the 
problems with your plumbing, heat, 
electricity — but it would be far wiser to 
assemble a circle of trustworthy people 
to invest in a communal living space 
together. In the city, you could use such 
a space as a meeting place or center 
for the performing arts, while in the 
countryside you could grow enough 
vegetables to feed a lot of people. 


This is only one of countless examples of the ways specialization can concentrate control 
and create dissension within a collective. Even in collectives in which the division of labor 
is much less formal, people tend to slip into roles, and the same consequences proceed. 

Responsibility and responsibleness alike tend to flow in one direction once a pattern is 
established. The more one person does, the more she or he knows how to do, and feels in- 
vested in these things getting done — and the less everyone else does. Worse, that person 
can thus become unvrilling to trust others with responsibilities, just as others cease to be 
aware of how much work there is to be done and what it takes to do it. The Responsible 
One blames others for not taking on responsibilities they don't even know exist; the others 
blame him or her for hostility and resentment they lack the context to understand. 

How can a collective resist this insidious tendency? There's the reformist approach: 
stay aware of the privilege and power you hold as a result of the tasks you take on, try to 
keep those who assume key roles in check with continuous feedback. And then there's the 
radical approach: rotate responsibilities frequently between participants in the collective, 
keep things so nebulous that no set roles can crystallize within your collective. Neither 
strategy can work without the other, really: no radical restructuring of our working groups 
could by itself undo the effects of the decades of hierarchical conditioning all of us have 
already undergone, and at the same time it's foolish to think people in structures that are 
conducive to specialization and centralization can behave differently just by deciding to. 



Communication is central to collective activity, and it's a voodoo art if there ever was one. 
No two people speak the same language the same way — different words, gestures, ac- 
tions always mean different things to different people. Don't get angry and self-righteous 
about communication breakdowns. There's no "right" way to communicate, no One and 
Only Way to handle things; anyone who tells you different is trying, consciously or not, to 
impose their personal system upon the cosmos. On the other hand, some ways do work 

better than others — ultimately, the only thing that matters is that your group find a com- 
mon speech or method that enables you to figure things out with each other. 

Whenever the composition of your group shifts, or even when it remains the same 
but the people inside it go through changes, as all of us always do, you'll have to figure 
everything out all over again. When you have a new member or two, don't assume that 
you can simply march forward according to the plans and procedures you'd worked out 
before. Get together and make sure everyone has a say in and a feeling of ownership of 
what you're doing together. 

Imagine the relationships in your collective as a system that can be diagrammed: 
support and information pass between some members more than others; pair bonds 
are formed, tighten, loosen. All this is inevitable, and fine enough; but the general 
shape of the system has critical effects on the way it works for those inside it. Some 
collectives have circular systems, in which communication takes place between all 
participants, or, if two members are not interacting as much, they are at least linked 
to each other by everyone else; other collectives develop linear systems, in which at 
some point in the chain of relationships there is one person who alone connects one 
group or individual to the rest. The circular system is healthy and durable; the linear 
system is perilous and fragile. 

Linear dynamics are not always accompanied by hierarchical power structure — but 
at the very least, they tend to encourage power polarization. The skills and needs of the 
people occupying the two (or more) ends of the line often evolve independently of each 
other, and the resulting specialization of interests can lead to conflict. 

Communication, which ordinarily would resolve such conflicts, is especially difficult 
in a collective that has linear dynamics, because the one person who links the different 
"wings" of the collective has to represent them to each other. Representation is already 

Dynamics: A Round Table, 
Not a House of Representatiues 


* Non-monogamous relationships can 

ako generate drama within collectives, 

of course. Whenever you consider 

becoming romantically invohed 

with someone who is important to 

you as a partner in ongoing projects, 

contemplate whether you would be able 

to continue your collaboration even if 

the relationship ended badly. 



recognized by anarchists as unhealthy and disempowering: the politicians who claim 
to represent our interests in so-called democracies inevitably fail us, for one can only 
learn one's own interests by representing oneself. Even if the linking member earnestly 
makes every effort to represent the needs of the different parties to each other, he or 
she ultimately does a disservice to both by enabling them to avoid figuring out how to 
communicate directly. Additionally, the stress this representing imposes on the linking 
member, especially if one or both sides are being aggressive, can be extremely difficult 
to bear. This stress, Hke all stress in a collective, is inevitably passed back on to every- 
one else again — so don't try to be a hero, solving everyone's problems and carrying the 
whole group forward on the strength of your diplomacy. 

The linear dynamic is a classic problem for collectives in which two members are 
involved in a love relationship, since in our society people in such relationships are 
encouraged to isolate themselves from others and form one unit, the joint interests of 
which are then related to the group by one of the two. Blame monogamy monoculture 
for this. This doesn't mean people who are romantically involved can't be in a collective 
together, but they do need to be especially aware about keeping communication mutual 
and representation to a minimum. Non-monogamy, not in terms of sex so much as 
relationship expectations and dynamics, has a lot to teach us on this subject (see Non- 
Monogamous Relationships, pg. 397)." 

It may well happen in a crisis situation that one member will retreat into isolation 
from the rest of the collective, fearing or resenting all of them except perhaps the one 
who knows best how to communicate with him or her. This situation will not be re- 
solved until the others can recognize his or her needs, and the individual can feel sup- 
port coming from all of them. As the success of any collective project depends on every- 
one involved, this should always be possible, somehow — it had better be, since in the 
long run no shortcut or substitute wdll suffice. 

Avoiding linear collective dynamics is as easy, and as hard, as solving every other 
internal collective problem: watch out for bad patterns, keep lines of communication 
open, don't be insensitive. Remember not to carry someone else's load when it comes 
to communication, any more than any other responsibility; remember also not to be so 
difficult to approach that others avoid you. 

If only this didn't need saying! You may not think it does, yourself, until pursuing your Don't Be a Jerk 
visions of total revolution to the ends of the earth lands you and your friends in your 
first, or fiftieth, really trying catastrophe, and tempers start to flare. 

If you raise your voice at your companions, apologize explicitly as soon as you can, and 
try to work out the reasons you lost your head so you can avoid it next time. If one of them 
raises his or her voice at you and then apologizes, make it clear you accept the apology and 
harbor no grudge, and ask if there is anything you could do to help avoid this happening 
again. If no apology is offered, approach him or her in a non-threatening way and make it 
clear how important it is you discuss what happened. Check in with each other consistent- 
ly — and not just in formal meetings, in which some members may feel intimidated — about 
how you're communicating and making each other feel. Solicit constructive critidsm, and 
take your companions' needs very seriously — ^your collective depends on this. 

Shouting at your companions is abusive, coercive behavior. Such behavior comes in 
subtler forms: sulking, sarcasm, insensitive teasing, refusing to participate in discus- 
sion, dismissing others' perspectives or needs. Forcing others to be the responsible 
ones — always being the one drinking, never considering others' needs until they re- 
mind you, never volunteering for tasks- — or to absorb the stress of your outbursts be- 
cause you're too volatile for dialogue is also coercive. If you find yourself thinking it 
necessary to "get tough" with your comrades by raising your voice or acting in other rnijeawes 
ways that make them uncomfortable — or for that matter thinking that they somehow 201 

deserve this treatment for something they have done! — ^then make no mistake about it: 
you are becoming an authoritarian. 

Make yourself accessible and approachable for dialogue at all times. You may not be 
able to tell what your companions are going through or need support in — or even that 
they're going through anything at all — just by watching from a distance; you have to be 
someone they know they can come to for support, someone they will want to come to 
no matter what's going on. This is important between all people, but especially so for 
a small group undertaking long-lasting, high-stress projects in close quarters. Don't 
get too comfortable in the role of supporter, either — ^you need to be just as comfortable 
seeking support as offering it. When you are offering support, be sure you're receiving 
it from somewhere as well. 

Lastly above all — make sure you're doing something you really want to be doing. This 
will make you more accommodating and good-spirited, and you won't feel like you need 
to be compensated for your activity like you do waiting tables or filing papers. If you re- 
ally love the projects you're undertaking and the people you're with, you won't mind the 
challenges that come with them. 

Protect Your Idealism 



Part of acting collectively is not setting yourself up to be disappointed. Your faith in other 
human beings, your ability to believe that they can be responsible for themselves and each 
other, these are more integral to what you're doing than anything else — so be careful not 
to give people unnecessary chances to let you down. Learning how to assess exactly how 
much you can trust a person is an essential skill for those who would work cooperatively. 

Likewise, provide for your own needs to whatever extent you are able. This might 
mean carrying toilet paper with you so when there's none in the bathroom at the squat 
you won't hold the whole squatting movement accountable for it, or showing up at a 
demonstration with a strategy of your ovra rather than waiting for instructions. Know 

what you need and how to ask explicitly for it, but be self-sufficient and durable too. 
Enjoy developing these qualities in yourself, so you can consider it an exciting challenge 
when everything you counted on others to prepare for the big festival falls through the 
night before and you have to take care of it all on your own. This will be a lot healthier 
and more productive than feeling yourself a martyr crucified by the laziness and stupid- 
ity of an unfeeling world. 

Ultimately, you should be able to thrive in any kind of environment or cultural con- 
text, and to be grateful for whatever people have to offer you, no matter how humble it 
may be — since in our networks outside the capitalist economy, where we've done away 
with notions of debt and duty, everything given is given only out of generosity. Approach 
everything in this way, and you'll be easy for everyone else to work with — not to mention 
you'll have a better time yourself. 

Remember, as long as we live in this cutthroat society, troubled relationships are going When Times Get Tough 
to be inevitable. That's why we're working towards a revolution in the first place! The dy- 
namics within our groups and ourselves mirror the patterns of strife in the larger world 
around us, and we can't expect them to be much healthier than it is. The struggle to heal 
one is the struggle to heal the other, and neither struggle will be concluded until both 
are. The good news buried in this conundrum is that whatever you discover that works 
within your small circle may well also work to change the world at large. 

It might help, when things get really bad and you start to feel ashamed of your group, 
like you're all a bunch of phonies and have nothing to offer the world or even each other, 
to consider all the other beautiful, important things that anarchists like yourself have 
accomplished — those great punk rock records, the resistance in the Spanish Civil War, 
the millions of meals served by Food Not Bombs. You can be sure all those feats were collect'ms 
only barely snatched from the teeth of internal dissension, resentment, and pessimism. 203 

Everything good we achieve, we achieve because we're willing to engage in projects that 
are imperfect — and to forgive ourselves and our relationships for that imperfection. The 
only thing that is perfect is nonexistence. Hold out a little to see what you might still be 
able to accomplish together, however flawed it might be, before you opt for that. 

Fallout and Afiermath Even with the best internal dynamics anticapitalism can buy, your collective may even- 
tually break up, or you may choose to leave it. That's inevitable, just like death {and the 
eventual abolition of taxes, god damn it). Things may even end in emotional drama and 
disappointment. Don't beat yourself up over this — learn what you can, and move on. 
Again, none of us is perfect, and recognizing that, being comfortable with it, is as radical 
and positive as our efforts to improve ourselves. 

The fact that it comes to an end doesn't have to mean you were doing the wrong 
thing, either. Such an assumption is reminiscent of the objection people sometimes 
bring up against non-monogamous relationships: "Oh, 1 know some people who tried 
that, but they ended up breaking up." Being able to have a healthy relationship includes 
knowing how and when to conclude it: the conclusion is not necessarily an indication 
of inherent problems. Not being able to conclude, on the other hand, might be — think 
of the miserable monogamous marriage that drags on forever, the inmates too proud to 
admit it's not working. 

So don't get demoralized when a collective comes to an end — take every lesson you 
learned, every skill you gained, every idea that has yet to see expression, and put them 
into action in your next collective projects. Make the lackeys of capitalism regret they ever 
let you get out alive, and the communities you care for grateful you managed to survive. 


Corporate Downsizing 

Corporations don't downsize themselves— they need our help! This is an example of 
how a selection of different tactics can be brought to bear at once on a given target on a 
busy shopping day. 

At least a dozen helium 
balloons of your favorite 



Banner-sized sheets of paper 

Spray paint or thick markers 

Kite rods 

Lots of fliers 

Blank T-shirts 

a gap employee name badge 

(if you are a real badass) 
Your WINNING smile 


This action is a triple-pronged assault on the local sweatshop-using, environment-destroy- 
ing clothing company of your choice. The three separate components of the action work 
well together or individually depending on how many people are in your action group. 
Five to ten is an optimal number to execute all three components simultaneously. 

This action only works indoors, optimally inside a mall in which the target store is 
on the highest floor. Prepare ahead of time a large paper banner reinforced with kite 
rods— for example, "gap uses child labor." Large rolls of paper are usually hidden in 


The Balloon Banner 


high school offices to cover bulletin boards in different colors. If you do not have access 
to paper, look for a thin bed sheet in a thrift store or dumpster. 

Next, designate well in advance a good spot on the ceiling of the mall w^here your 
banner can hang down with optimum visibility in or in front of the store you are target- 
ing but out of reach of security guards. At the time of the action, move quickly to the 
designated location, tie the balloons firmly to the upper kite rod, and release the banner. 
Be sure to test it out beforehand to make sure you have an adequate number of balloons 
for the weight of your banner. 

Shortly before the test run that is described at the conclusion of this recipe, another 
affinity group launched a balloon banner in a corporate bookshop on their opening 
day. Two operatives entered the store separately one in civilian dress with a dowel and 
a rolled-up banner with loops in the top secreted separately on her person, the other 
dressed as a clown bearing balloons. As it was a festive occasion for the bookshop, the 
presence of the clown didn't attract unusual attention. The dowel was slipped into the 
banner, the banner was slipped to the clown, and the clown affixed the balloons to it and 
released it, making swiftly for the exit wdth the secret of his identity kept safe, thanks to 
his absurd getup. 


Corporate Dowrisizing 

To complement the balloon banner, or as a separate action, print off massive quanti- 
ties of fliers describing the corporation's exploitation of workers and the environment. 
"Whenever possible, try to include the testimonies of actual sweatshop workers instead 
of speaking for them; these can be found easily enough on the internet. 

To distribute the fliers most effectively, we recommend placing them in folded clothing 
and posting tibem in dressing rooms (see Wheatpasting, pg. 598, and Sticker'mg, pg. 520), 
where hopefiilly customers will read them before they buy anything. Armed with a stack of 
fliers the right size, you can flll a pile of shirts or pants with remarkable ease and swiftness. 

This is where the name badge and smile come in handy: prepare for your new job as a 
greeter! Stand just inside the door, and as customers walk in, smile and say something 
like, "Welcome to the GAP, where we bring you low prices by destroying the planet. Can 
I help you find something?" If you prefer a more subtle approach, try writing a slogan 
on your T-shirt and strOdng a pose with the mannequins — everyone loves a cute anar- 
chist shovring off the latest fashions covered in handwritten slogans like "GAP: made 
for kids, by Idds," or simply the cleverly-modified logo "CRAP." 

Greet the Customers 

Beginning at high noon on a Buy Nothing Day some years ago, we executed all of the 
above ideas with about ten people. 

The first part of the plan, which was intentionally omitted from the recommended 
ideas above, involved banners attached to a four- foot remote-controlled helium blimp. 
The gleaming silver vessel was powered by twin plastic propellers and said "US Navy" 
across the sides. For all its beauty, however, it was a problematic contraption from the 
beginning. When we taped the banners onto the sides, even though we had made them 
from very thin wrapping paper, they threw off the balance of the blimp so badly that we 
had to add an oversized party balloon to the top just to get it airborne. All of this added 
weight and air resistance, and rendered the once-efFective remote-controlled propellers 
totally useless. 

Regardless, we pressed on with the plan and at precisely twelve o'clock a close friend 
and I burst through the doors of the food court and launched the banner blimp up- 
ward. We quickly blended into the huge crowd of day-after-Thanks giving shoppers 
and made discreet exits while the remote control was passed around our team of ama- 
teur pilots, who were already positioned at tables. The blimp made a few successful 
laps roughly three feet above the heads of the hungry shoppers. Amazingly, it failed to 
draw much attention to itself, but its banners — "stop consuming, start living" and 


You can tape a handwritten sign to 
any offensive vending machine to 
discourage those who intended to 
do business with it; "out of order" is 
an old standard, but "eats dollars" 
tells the honest truth about vending 
machines — working or broken. 

You can use aerosol-can foam 
insulation to clog anything fronn bill 
acceptors to card readers. 

You can send black-page faxes to your 
least favorite corporations to jam 
their lines and use up all the ink in 
their fax machines. 

Corporate Dowmizing 

To protect the youth from gender- role 

brainwashing, you can switch the 

voice boxes in gendered corporate 

toys and return them to the shelves. 

Corporate Downsizing 

"swEATSHOPS=sLAVERY, BUY NOTHING!" — ^were clearly legible. Then, suddenly caught in 
a gust from the heating vents, the bhmp was pushed into a giant neon fast food sign, 
where it stuck as its propellers spun powerlessly. A confused employee began beating 
it with a broomstick, and by the time it was dislodged it had sustained critical damage. 
Alas, despite a courageous attempt at re-launching, it was never to fly again, and a secu- 
rity officer dragged it through the crowd and into the mall office. 

The blimp only lasted about ten minutes, but the sheer hilarious spectacle of it had 
raised our spirits. We quickly raUied at a meeting point in the parking lot where we 
divided 600 fliers between ourselves and retrieved the balloons and paper banners. We 
split up and re-entered the mall through different entrances; some of us headed to GAP, 
Abercrombie & Fitch, Sears, JC-Penney, and American Eagle to distribute the fliers, 
while three of us walked quickly toward the designated banner launch point. 

1 was holding a bundle of six black and red balloons as I hustled through the jewelry 
department of a JC-Penney. I kept nervously glancing down at my watch, and was re- 
heved when 1 arrived under the GAP at precisely the same moment as my accomphces, 
who were carrying the banner and another six balloons. We quickly tied it all together 
and let it fly straight up to the vaulted glass ceiling. The long ribbons dangled the banner 
at a readable level that was totally unreachable by the grappling hooks that were soon 
thrust at it. Shoppers lined the sides of the walkways and stared up at the banner with 
open jaws. Many were holding our fliers in tiheir hands! 

At this pouit, the security guards were frantically talking into their two-way radios 
and looking up at the balloon banner in disbelief Later, we found out that in hitting the 
glass the balloons had triggered a silent alarm. The banner was up for four hours until a 
large platform could be raised under it and security was finally able to pull it down. After 
the last of the fliers had been tucked away in corporate clothing and the extras thrown 
off" the second-floor balconies, and I had been kicked out of five separate clothing stores 

(thus ending my career as a greater), we met back outside and celebrated an afternoon 
well spent. The consequences were minimal: some of us were banned from the mall for 
a year, one of us who had been working at a pretzel stand in the mall lost his job, and 
charges of trespassing and disorderly conduct were threatened but never filed. 

Mall security cameras can be used effectively to identify participants after the event. 
Masks are an option to bear in mind, but that approach has drawbacks as well. Perhaps 
the clovm makeup described earlier is the best solution. 

Engaging with customers directly can be surprisingly effective. The average shopper 
doesn't put too much thought into where her clothes are made, and will most likely be 
as outraged as you are once you share the testimonies of sweatshop workers wdth her. 

Balloon banners fucking rock. Forget blimps: banners are more cost-effective, easier 
to aim, and more difficult for security to take down. 

Lessons Learned 


• -1 







nil i 

i ^' 


Corporate Downsizing 

Distribution, Tabling, o^ Injbshops 


Plant in Fertile Ground 

A recipe for Dandelions: 

A lungful of air will spread the seeds. 
Manicured lawn becomes bed of weeds. 

First things first: ask yourself whom you want to contact. Everybody? High school stu- 
dents? Potential political/social allies? A music scene? People like your grandmother? 
Go to the places where those people are. Do these people walk? Put posters on light 
posts. Do these people drive? Put stickers on the walls of a gas station bathroom. Solicit- 
ing for a Critical Mass (see Bicycle Parades, pg. loo)? Why not leave notes of appreciation 
announcing it on all the parked bikes in town? 

If you only put fliers up at the local college and the record store, chances are you 
will only reach a particular demographic. If that's your goal, great. But if you want to 
involve people from outside your usual community, you have to make an effort, not just 
cross your fingers. Leave literature at the unemployment office. The Greyhound station. 
Planned Parenthood. The dressing rooms of department stores. Inside tabloids. Phone 
booths. Burger King. Yes, it might get thrown away. But someone will have to interact 
with your offering before that happens. For best results, tailor the language and format 
of your material to the target readership and context. 

Don't forget doctors' and dentists' offices, as well as beauty salons, bank lobbies, and 
car repair shops. People like to read things while ffiey're waiting, and it might as well be 
your 'zine instead of Glamor. Of course, if you have a reason to be in one of these places 

and slide it into the stack nonchalantly, it's liable to remain longer than if you just bust 
in, toss it down, and leave. After all, it could have anthrax on it. 

We threw a film festival in Olympia and one of the three days consisted solely of free 
activities. Free movies, free workshops, free food, free vnll. One of us went to the soup 
kitchen and shelter and made sure that everyone there knew they were invited. I carried 
fliers everywhere I went. "Yes, you can have my spare change — and come to these free 
movies, by the way." 

You can broadcast from alleys and bus stops and under bridges. When Benjamin 
decided to create a punk rock Midsummer Night's Dream, he posted the casting call on all 
the dumpsters. They performed it on Mayday and the result was phenomenal. 

For more information, see: Graffiti, pg. 258; Stenciling, pg. 51S; Wheatpasting, pg. 598; 
Stickering, pg. 520; Asphalt Mosaics, pg. 66; and so on. 

You can start a discussion group with 
friends in order to get more out of 
just about an)fthing you might read or 
think about; you may find it easier to 
learn and give voice to your thoughts 
in this environment than in traditional 
classroom settings. 

You're in the bookstore. Are you going to pick up the novel your friend told you was re- 
ally good, or the one you saw in an advertisement? Human interaction is simply more 
memorable than a remote printed message. If you need to choose where to invest your 
energy, make a hundred photocopies instead of a million and talk to everyone you can. 
One common approach is to attend events that have something in common with your 
idea, where the people are likely to be interested in your music/art/cause /revolution, 
and set up a table. 

Tabling is simple: take some literature and/or other material to a public place and 
set it up on a table, blanket, etc. Do this at punk shows. Food Not Bombs servings, hip 
hop concerts, showings of radical documentaries or action movies intended to cash in 
on dissent, speaking engagements by left-vring politicians and authors and artists, gun 
shows, political rallies, underground dance parties, street fairs, science fiction and com- 
ic book and technology conventions, activist conferences, college cafeterias, the park on 

Add a Tablespoon of Fertilizer 

Distribution, Tabling, and Infoshops 


If you can rent videos under a fake 

identity, tape your own radical movie 

previews onto them advertising 

adventures that can take place in real 

life; failing this, use a powerful magnet 

to erase tapes on display in desen/ing 

corporate movie rental outlets. 

You can soak the ink off some 

cancelled stamps with alcohol. Better, 

cover stamps with a thin layer of soap 

or water-soluble glue before mailing; 

the addressee can soak off the soap or 

glue, and with it the cancellation ink. 

If your hand has been cramping up 

from adding all those speech bubbles 

to the paper money that passes 

through your hands, get rubber 

stamps made; if you are a clerk or 

know someone who is, you can do 

entire registers of bills. 

Distribution, Tabling, and Infosiiops 


a sunny day. If you know they wouldn't otherwise give you permission (or free entry) to 
table, act like you're doing something official and enter with no questions asked or an- 
swered {except, perhaps, "oh, me? I'm here to run the table"); if they won't let you table 
inside, table outside. 

It's a gesture of good faith, and a demonstration of anarchist economic principles, to 
ojEfer at least some, if not most, of your stuff for free, so do your best to come up with 
a source of free photocopies or materials: find a pilfering friend at a copy shop or seek 
employment at one yourself, misreport the number of copies you made or crack their 
copy-counting technology, order a big stack of free papers from some wild-eyed radical 
collective (hint, hint). You can also sell things on a sliding scale according to the means 
of each individual. Put out a donation jar — ^you'll be surprised how proactive people will 
be about donating what they can, once they know you're not out to make a profit. At 
some events, donations alone can be enough to pay gas money, even if you're traveling a 
great distance. Anarchist bookmobiles have succeeded in crossing the country, sharing 
literature everywhere they go, on the strength of mere donations and book sales. 

Consider setting up a banner or similar visual by your table to increase your visibility 
and add atmosphere; you could also develop theater or circus acts to attract attention. Don't 
be shy about what you're doing, or use euphemisms about it — ^that just makes people sus- 
picious. Shouting out "Subversive propaganda! Seditious Hterature! Dangerous stuff here, 
folks — protect your children from the anarchist menace!" will endear you to fence-sitters, 
if you do it with the right spirit — they'll appreciate your sense of humor and hyperbole, and 
wiU want to prove that they're not so old and uptight as to be afraid of a little brush with 
the extreme. You'll find yourself astounded at the vidde variety of people who will come up 
to you proclaiming that in fact they are the dangerous anarchists, not you. 

Make a display system that offers easy access to a number of browsers at once and 
also protects fragile materials until they find good homes; you could even set up the 

back of a truck as an infoshop on wheels. For long tours, in the course of which card- 
board boxes would get dented or soaked (note that, as the boxes empty of material, they 
become more and more fragile), you can pack everything into those plastic crates with 
the interlocking plate tops that are easy to find behind drug stores. If possible, carry your 
own tables, folding chairs, hand truck, tarp in case of rain, and paperweights or rubber 
bands so you won't find yourself running around picking up rocks in front of police at 
the next demonstration that falls on a windy day. 

Besides photocopied posters and pamphlets, there are a million other things you can 
offer at tables: screenprinted patches, free food (as an outreach for your local Food Not 
Bombs group, a strategy to detract from sales at the corporate bagel store next door, a 
pressure valve for dumpstering surplus, or just for its own sake), healthy substitutes 
for tampons, video documentaries, normal-looking clothing home-altered to convert to 
black bloc gear and back again, miscellaneous stolen goods, items (such as graffiti mark- 
ers) useful for committing community-friendly crime. One anarchist traveling circus 
made many hundreds of dollars to fund their other projects by stealing massive quanti- 
ties of vaguely radical books from corporate bookstores and selling them at cheap prices. 
A table to encourage graffiti could provide young people with stolen paint pens, spray 
paint, gloves, and bottles of glass etching solution, and homemade stencils and stick- 
ers. An anarchist table at a liberal antiwar demonstration could give out posters using 
humor to push a more radical stance. 

When it comes to the question of whether it's worth the trouble, always err on the 
side of tabling unless you have something better to do. Even if it turns out the event is 
attended exclusively by Young Republicans, and no one takes anything you've brought, 
it's still important for us to be visible as anarchists/queers/creative people. That makes 
it all that harder for our enemies to deny our existence, which is their most powerful 
weapon against us; also, whether or not we win "converts" for "the cause," a goal of 

To make extra gas money while 
tabling, you can put out a sign 
that reads "massage — free or 
for donations," Provided you are 
something of an extrovert, this 
can really help break the ice, not to 
mention pay your travel expenses. 

You can save the "postage paid by 
addressee" envelopes you get in junk 
mail and send them back stuffed with 
more junk mail^or, better, with love 
letters to whomever opens them, 
begging them to seek a better life. 

Distribution, Tabling, and Infoshops 


dubious value at best, it's important for people to have a basic idea of what we want and 
what we're doing. It may take them a number of times seeing you to work up the cour- 
age to interact with you, anyway. 

And a Pinch of Curiosity! 

You can go to karaoke bars and 

sing your own words to popular 

songs to get news or ideas into 

unexpected environments. 

Once upon a time, my favorite book was a manual on spy techniques. I yearned to find 
messages in bottles left in fountains or artificial lakes and rolled up scraps of paper in 
the cracks of brick walls. 

Skip forward ten years. The night before classes began at Evergreen State College, we 
slipped into the classrooms and taped thought-provoking notes under tables, leaving a 
comer undone so the paper would graze someone's leg. We stuck some to the backs of 
vending machines and slipped them inside our favorite library books, reveling in the 
possibility that three years could pass before they were found. 

What would you do if you found a secret missive? An impassioned love letter? Would 
you drop it immediately, or study it carefully? Would you wonder who was meant to find 
it? Would you know it was meant for you? Would you go to the train tracks at midnight 
on Friday, just to see who was there? Sometimes dreamers can't help themselves. 

Paint a beautifijl mural or write out an incendiary manifesto in a secluded location, 
and draw maps to it in phone booths and restrooms. Go through the phone book, calling 
places of business and engaging the employees who answer the phone in conversations 
about what really matters in life. Place personal ads in the local newspaper: "Capitalism 
sucking the life out of you? BiWF, 27, non-monogamous, seeks lovers of life and liberty 
to form a revolutionary organization. Only those serious about playing need apply." 

Now Scatter tl^e Seeds on tlie Wind In the lulls between tabling, fliering, and burying treasure for the curious, you can also 

Dktribution, Tabling, and infoshops distribute by mailorder. Once you've amassed a wide assortment of material, compile a 

214 catalog including prices or suggested donations to cover postage and production fees; 

photocopy it and mail it out in packages, post it on the internet, take out advertisements 
in newspapers and magazines. Learn how to use the domestic "media mail" and over- 
seas "m-bag" rates to send packages more cheaply, and memorize the wording of the 
postal regulations so you can quickly give any postal worker the impression that you 
understand the system and are abiding by it. Above all, befriend everyone at the local 
post office. 

If you are producing your own material, send copies of everything to reviewers and 
other magazines, and to other distributors who might want to help spread them. Con- 
tact other pubhshers for advice on printers and distribution venues. 

For long-term outreach and organizing, it really helps to have a community resource 
center as a focal point and staging area. Such centers are sometimes called infoshops. 
An infoshop can offer free literature; books, music recordings, and other material for 
sale; a public library and archive of books, papers, and videos; a community comput- 
er lab; a space for meetings, performances, and film showings; a calendar of public 
events; a "free store" in which surplus resources are shared . . . space and volunteers 
are the only limits. 

That is, they should be the only limits. Problems with landlords, funding, and city 
zoning and permits usually plague an infoshop every step of the way If the financial 
resources can be raised somehow, it is preferable to buy a space rather than renting one, 
so as not to be at the mercy of a landlord; before settling on one, be sure it is in a district 
zoned by the city for the purposes you intend and that the neighbors are amenable to 
your plans. Gentrification is often an issue— it's always best that the people opening a 
space have a lot in common culturally and economically with the people who live around 
it; if this isn't the case, seek to collaborate with local groups from the beginning, and 
work hard to provide for local needs without being evangeHcal about it. 

And Put Down Roots 

You can hold skillshare workshops, 
trading knowledge in your areas of 
expertise with others outside so-called 
educational institutions. 

Distribution, Tabling, and Infoshops 

You can set up your own library, 

making all the books and magazines 

and records and videos and clothes 

you and your friends already have 

available for everyone, so no one has 

to buy their own copies anymore. 

Whenever a band comes to your town 

to play, have a part of the door money 

go to buying a copy of their record for 

the community to share. 

To raise funds, you can hold benefit shows, soHcit donations from wealthier folks, even 
sell community memberships. Speaking of finances and other resources — as in all do- 
it-yourself endeavors, be careful not to overextend. An infoshop can help foster a com- 
munity, but the community has to be there in some form already to support the info- 
shop. Don't undertake the taxing project of getting a permanent space until there are 
enough people involved and enough momentum to sustain you over the initial hurdles 
and well into the day-to-day grind of keeping the place going. Make sure at least a few 
of the organizers are in it for the long haul; at the same time, always seek new blood to 
keep things fresh, and stay fiexible enough to provide new resources and serve new roles 
according to the changing context and needs of the community. 

The bottom line is to get people to spend time in the space — and then to help them 
feel entitled to take the lead in making use of it. Serve free drinks and snacks, make 
your place a social center that people will drop by to see friends and hang out; be sure 
no cultural demographic monopolizes the atmosphere, so people from different social 
circles wiU all feel welcome. 

Distribution, Tabling, and Infoshops 

Account We were invited by a rival anarchist collective to travel many hundreds of miles up 
the coast to Boston for the Wake Up the Earth festival, a family-oriented all-day event 
at which they had reserved spaces for tables. We brought our fiying circle-A with the 
twenty-three-foot wingspan, and set it up over the grass across from our booth to make 
our presence known. Our table was beside the Food Not Bombs serving tent, between 
the other political tables (the Socialists, Democrats, independent candidates, and other 
bloodsuckers) and the rest of the tables— mostly small-time capitalists hawking food 
and crafts. It helped quite a bit that this festival already had a sort of eco-friendly, liberal 
slant to it; at the same time, it was unfortunate that we were from out of town, as it 
216 meant that we couldn't connect people to local networks except by proxy. 

We taped copies of our posters to hang off the sides of our table, and covered it with 
stacks of newspapers and boxes of pamphlets and posters filed vertically. One of us 
offered fortune cookies to passersby; these were vegan chocolate chip cookies wrapped 
in strips of xeroxed paper. I heard one father reading his son his fortune as they walked 
away: "Next Christmas, dress up as Santa Claus and give children free toys off the shelves 
in corporate . . , department . . . stores. Hmph." 

We'd brought three pinatas made from cardboard and paper mache to add atmo- 
sphere to the event: a black box with barred windows, reading "Prison Industrial Com- 
plex" on three sides, a sneering fat cat businessman, and a big ugly pig with "police 
brutality" scrawled on the sides — ^we'd avoided making human effigies, so as to seem 
like nice folks to uptight parents like the one I just mentioned. All were stuffed with 
stolen vegan candy, and the fat cat was also stuffed with fake dollar bills with little 
anticapitalist slogans printed on them. As soon as the park crowded up with people, 
we tossed a rope over the branch of the nearest tree and hoisted the Prison-Industrial 
Complex aloft. To our surprise, a small crowd of kids gathered around us immedi- 
ately: "Whaf s that?" "A pinyata." "A what.^" "Pinyada." "Oh, a.pinata\" one little brown- 
skinned girl chimed in, pronouncing it properly for us white folks. "Can we break it? 
Can we beat it?" 

Most of the punks and anarchists in the area had gathered across from us under our 
flying circle-A, and now a small corps of them started up a rhythm on their marching 
drums to build excitement. I produced a blindfold: "Who wants to go first?" "Me! Me!" 
Now there was a small army of kids swarming around us, tugging at the baseball bat 
in my hands. I picked the smallest one, spun her around in circles, and gave her three 
tries to swing the bat into the box, while my companions struggled to hold back the 
screaming, surging crowd. It was the closest thing to a punk show environment I've 
ever experienced in a public park. One of us was pulling and releasing the rope that sus- 

Distribution, Tabting, and Infoshops 

In music file-sharing venues, you 

can put tracks of radical propaganda 

online with the same names and song 

lengths as popular songs, so people 

seeking to download the songs can 

be exposed to something unexpected. 

pended the pifiata, making it swing wildly — so that many kids of all sizes, and a few of 
their mothers, got to have a turn before it was finally smashed open and its booty spilled 
across the grass. 

We waited an hour before putting up the next pifiata, then another hour again before 
deploying the last one, and each was greeted with the same response. All the fake dollar 
bills with radical messages on them inside the fat cat disappeared along with the candy, 
which was encouraging — and the atmosphere in the park was definitely transformed: 
imagine a mixed crowd of vagabond activists, college students, and parents of all races 
watching a powerful black mother aggressively swinging a baseball bat at a pig with a 
police hat on it as her children and about a hundred others scream "Hit it! Kill it! Get 
the pig!" in the middle of a placid, consumerist street fair. See Effigies (pg. 229) for more 
information about how to do this yourself 

As for the table, we were amazed by how many people of widely varied walks of life 
were excited to see it, and more excited to learn everything on it was free. We'd brought 
hundreds of anarchist newspapers and magazines, pamphlets for student activists, 
bootlegged comic books with radical commentary added, seditious posters and stickers, 
and punk rock patches, and the table was totally bare by the end of the afternoon — and 
we had enough donations in the can to pay for our gas all the way up and back down 
the coast. A few nights later I set my hair on fire while trying to demonstrate the pinata 
program in my hometown, but that's another story. 

Distribution, Tabling, and infoslnops 
21 S 

Dumpster Diving 

Kid in dumpster with mountain of food. Head of broccoli demands, "What are you doing in 
here?" Kid counters, "What are YOU doing in here?" 

Burdens lift and scarcity is averted when the mountains of trash produced by this in- 
sane society become suppHes and sustenance. Everything that sucks about capitaUsm is 
inverted when the dumpster diver scores. Poverty becomes abundance. Loss becomes 
gain. Despair becomes hope. 

"To a dumpster diver, every day is Christmas— except Christmas, which is boring because it's 
the same trash from the 24^^." -St. Nick 

If you haven't heard it on the evening news, dumpsters aren't just for trash anymore. 
Why in the world would anyone throw a case of fresh strawberries in a dumpster? That's 
a great question, but we've no time for a nuanced discussion of how waste figures into 
capitalist collapse. There are more pressing matters at hand . . . like that case of ber- 
ries, and the hundreds of other price-less treasures awaitmg rescue this very second in 
a dumpster near you! Soldier, this is an emergency! We're talking about how to get in 
there, get those berries, and get back out where you and your fruit belong. 



where The first step is to find out who in your town is wastefiil. That's the same question as 
"Who has a dumpster?" If you just want to explore the world of waste reclamation, get 
aimless: most any dumpster will do. But if you have specific needs, do what any savvy 
shopper does — look in the yellow pages! Chances are, if they sell it in front, they throw 
it away out back. So . . . what do you need? There's bound to be a dumpster out there to 
serve you: food, bike equipment, construction materials, kitchenware, books, electron- 
ics, clothes, flowers, shoes, bread, bread, bread. There are even fancy nut dumpsters, 
and I'm here to tell you: yes, you can get sick of almonds. 

Keep your eyes peeled for invisible dumpsters without walls or lids. Weeks after col- 
lege gets out for the summer, those sad, rusting bicycles still locked up on campus are in 
such dumpsters, and you'd better grab your bolt cutters and cut them free before some 
maintenance worker transfers them to the big dumpster in the sky. You can also use 
scissor jacks or bottle jacks to break locks, and if you do so with the right confidence, 
everyone will think you're just reclaiming your own bicycle. By the same token, don't 
miss leftover materials at construction sites, or piles of perfectly good items set out on 
curbs throughout the suburbs. 

When you're looking for specific goods, retail locations are great, but don't count out 
distribution centers. These are usually listed in the phone book. A juice distributor, for 
example, will throw out all its juices long before the expiration date, when there isn't time 
for them to be sent to retailers, sit on shelves until they're purchased, then sit on shelves 
until they're consumed before that deadline finally arrives — not that expiration dates 
usually indicate much about food safety, in my experience! Anyway, in this case you're 
consuming food even the most bourgeois would be hard-pressed to write off" as garbage. 
Dumpster D;V/ng ^ou can also look on packages of specific products for manufacturing locations, and try 
220 dumpstering there. 

Dumpstering at self-storage units is worth your time. By definition, everything in 
one of those dumpsters has been specifically chosen, moved, and stored by some- 
one. Finally, they had to come to terms with the fact that in this world of over-abun- 
dance, they would never have space for these prized possessions, and toss them out. 
Here's a glimpse: entire drum sets, VCRs, food, furniture, lumber, dishes, small 
appliances galore . . . 

How about . . . thrift shops!? Yes, very wasteful. They cut the cords off trashed appli- 
ances, same as we do in the aisles of Wal-Mart, but these can be replaced. University 
theater departments are another "seasonal" harvest: wood, props, cloth, costumes. Mu- 
sical instrument repair shops — lord have mercy! Construction dumpsters are luscious, 
but look out for nails. Carpet installers have dumpsters full of cut-ofFs. Any apartment 
complex, especially at the end of the month, can be a one-stop shop for the revolution. 
Yes, you can dumpster computers. Don't count out public trash receptacles for a handy 
snack, especially soon after lunchtime in a downtowoi area. 

When? Always! You have to be persistent with certain dumpsters, but it's worth it to visit When 
more than a dozen if lucky thirteen donates one hundred pounds of granola to 
your cause. Keep tabs on dumpsters that seem sporadic; you may find that they follow 
an odd but regular schedule. In the case of foodstuffs, when a new shipment arrives it 
means out vrith the old. When does the truck come? 

Timing also concerns the hour of the day. I try to dive at off hours: nights and week- 
ends. Early mornings on weekends are particularly safe if you can hack it. Still, if I'm 
just looking for a quick snack, I never hesitate to pop back and see what's cookin' — many 
are the times I've gone around back while my companions went in the front, and I've Dumpster DMng 
returned with the more impressive score. Also, if I'm walking across town, I try to take 227 

You can get rare earth magnets, which 

are extremely powerful, out of the 

hard drives of the old computers now 

entering the dumpsters of universities 

and bourgeois apartment complexes; 

the older the computer, the more 

powerful the magnet. 

Magnets can often be used to reset 

counters such as those self-serve 

copying corporations once used; 

powerful ones can also damage 

televisions, videotapes, and 


the alleys rather than the streets, so I can play peek-a-boo as I go. If there's something 
special, I come back later. One more hint: during a hot summer, you won't want to give 
food a long time to ferment. 

There are timing issues related to season as well. In some towns, different neighbor- 
hoods have different curbside pickup days, on which households can put out all their 
oversize trash. You could call the sanitation department, purporting to be from each 
neighborhood of the town in succession, to learn all the best days and locations for 
curbside trash-picking. 

If you live in a college town, you are all set. College kids throw out more useful gar- 
bage than perhaps any other class of people on earth. The big potlatch is at the end of a 
school year. Come spring, campuses swarm with wastrels and scavengers of all kinds. 
What kind of consumer hinging and purging happens in your town? 

Certain emergencies make dumpstering a special event. When a grocery store's pow- 
er goes out for any length of time, they are required to throw out all refrigerated perish- 
ables! My first dumpster diving experience coincided with just such an emergency. I was 
lying on my bed reading a 'zine about dumpster diving, skeptical but ready to conduct 
my own investigation, when the power went out. Unable to continue reading, I puttered 
about in the dark, until finally I hopped on my bike and rode down to the nearest Food 
Lion. Picture, if you will, the young skeptic rounding the corner to see a construction- 
size dumpster — bigger than my house at the time! — filled to overflowing with the entire 
cold food section ... all still frozen! After three hours of ferrying food back and forth 
imtil my house could fit no more, there was a litde dent in Mt. Food into which I tossed 
the last of my misgivings. 

Dumpster Diuing 


Now that place and time are covered, what's left is technique. No big deal. There are a Technique 
few pointers that can increase your joy and prosperity; the subtleties you will learn as 
you go. Trust your gut, both in terms of where to go and what to take. In the case of food, 
believe it or not, you have built-in faculties for determining what is safe and what is not: 
smell, intuition, deduction. How do you think your hunter/gatherer ancestors survived.^ 
These — along with the immune system — get dull in a world that's too sterile, but they 
sharpen up quickly. After a lengthy career, I stiU have never known a dumpster diver to 
get sick from dumpstered food (except that hilarious scene in Evasion where the author 
deliberately eats moldy bread). Of course there are stories, just like there are stories of 
razor-bladed apples being given out on Halloween — be leery of the ways sub-urban leg- 
ends reprimand and warn. People get sick all the time, but if any food should be blamed, 
it's that sugary, plastic-wrapped trash they buy off the shelves. 

Be a sneak. It serves the dumpster diver to go unseen and unnoticed. 1 make my 
rounds after store hours and try to leave the dumpster in better condition than I found 
it. This way my gathering causes no stress for employees who, quite reasonably, get 
upset if they have to clean up around a dumpster. If no mess resufts, your patronage is 
actually a service, since businesses pay for their waste by weight and frequency of pick 
up. Given all that, if the store becomes openly hostile you have the right to get pissed 
off and fight back. If they put a padlock on the dumpster, cut it off with boft cutters and 
replace it with your own. If you have yet to dumpster a nice pair of bolt cutters, squeeze 
a tube of superglue into the keyhole. If they replace it with a compacter, push a blanket 
soaked in gasoline under it and light it on fire. Um, for entertainment purposes only, 
you know. 

Another pointer— never be afraid to get inside that dumpster. The dumpster gods 
do not smile on window shoppers. Get in there, dig holes, open bags, dump out boxes, 
be persistent. Just because a business slips up and puts a few layers of bona fide trash 

Dumpster Dii^ing 



Making Peace with 
Your Inner Raccoon 

Dumpster Dhing 

in the dumpster doesn't mean they are against putting useful stuff in there too. All the 
same, watch out for "dumpster juice" — sometimes you just don't need to go any deeper. 
Wearing sturdy, waterproof, protective shoes won't hurt, either 

What to wear? Dumpsters are mostly dark green, so whatever goes with that vvdll do 
you well. Some friends in Indianapolis, masters of the craft, dive in furry raccoon suits. 
That's something to work up to. For starters, get a headlamp — it will free up your hands 
in the dark — and a nice bag or backpack to fill wnth loot. 

The dumpster spirits deserve respect — ^keep them appeased. If you find something use- 
ful, take it. Worst case, you can set it by the road and watch as it gets scooped up by some 
grateful soul. If you begin to feel extraordinarily looked after, it's time to start a food Not 
Bombs {pg. 248) or a free store. Also, and most important, recognize that the dumpster 
may know more about your ftiture than you do. Last week, in the middle of a weeks -long 
drought, I found an umbrella. Today I've got to go to the bus station, and it's been rain- 
ing torrentially since I woke up. 

Dumpster diving can be rough for the recovering bourgeois. There is hardly anything 
so deeply ingrained as the middle-class fear of having to go in a trashcan to eat — the 
ultimate in social failure. Recognize what you may be up against in that regard, and 
remember, it's a path of a thousand steps. One day you will be able to proudly walk right 
up to a public trash can, fish out some Chinese leftovers, and eat them right there in 
front of all your ex-classmates — ^with such ease and confidence that they'll come over to 
ask for a bite. 

Once I was climbing out of the dumpster behind a bread shop, drooling and gigghng 
of course, when two bread shop employees came out the back door. They looked at me. 

I looked at them, we all looked at the bag of bread I was toting like Santa Claus. They 
were appalled; I felt a little weird. "1 . . . uhh . . ." — ^but the two went back inside before 
I managed to get out my doctoral thesis on free food. It wouldn't have bothered me 
much, except that I recognized one of them as the little sister of a kid I was in drug treat- 
ment with years earlier. Before I could make a break for it (see Evasion, pg. 234), the two 
emerged once again, this time with a loaf of fresh potato bread. "Urn, thanks," I said. I 
don't think she recognized me. 

It may help to explain to the dubious and disgusted that you're not actually taking trash, 
you're intercepting perfectly good materials on their way to the trash. Don't be shy about 
your means of acquiring supplies, however critical or snobbish your friends may be. 
Like veganism and abstinence from chemical intoxicants, the issue of dumpstering 
tends to provoke defensive responses — -for if it isn't unpardonably disgusting after all, 
then those who have been paying for things all along are straight-up suckers. Flaunt 
your loveliest dumpstered wares, make a delicious feast of pristine trash-picked cuisine 
and only tell where it came from afterwards; they'll come around. Excessive squeamish- 
ness is counter-revolutionary if anything is. 

Converting the Infidels 

We learned this one from the FBI. We use it to keep tabs on hotels that might host 
events for offending corporations or, for that matter, the police, on corporate offices 
where nasty plots are laid, on the houses of fascist organizers or others whose plans are 
interesting to us. Look for schedules, notes, anything that gives away secrets. Big scores 
in this department have provided serious intelligence resources for effective actions, 
believe you me. 

Dumpster Diving 
as Surveillance 

Dumpster Diving 

What Do We Do with It AH? 

You can start a Food Not Bombs (pg. 248) or hold a "Really Really Free Market" (see Festi- 
vals, pg. 241). You can establish a free store, a space where free materials and resources 
are always available. You can make gift packages for the needy, or walk through the 
streets giving things away. In most neighborhoods, useful things left on the curb will 
disappear swiftly. Waste is everyone's problem if it makes its way into the landfills to 
pollute our earth and crowd out our future — hijack it on the way and make sure it gets 
back into circulation. 

Reverse Dumpstering 

Warnings and Hints 

Dumpster Diving 

It was the Young Lords, I think, who, in the 1960s, when the city government refused 
to do adequate trash collecting in their neighborhoods, organized their own garbage col- 
lection. At the end of a few weeks' labor, they took all the trash they had picked up to the 
neighborhoods of the wealthy and deposited it there as a massive roadblock. Don't let 
the wastrels forget how much trash they're producing — make sure it reappears to haunt 
them just when they thought they were rid of it. Not long ago, Europeans carried out a 
successful campaign against superfluous corporate packaging by unwrapping products 
inside the store and leaving the containers there on the shelves; some years earlier, a 
group crusading against non-recyclable containers distributed mailing labels, so con- 
scious consumers (or dumpster divers!) could mail these back to their manufacturers. 

Some of us once had a problem with this, that's why I bring it up: you've got to watch out 
for scabies. It was common among us for some time to acquire our sleeping arrange- 
ments from a mattress store down the street that would throw away the old mattresses 
their customers brought in when they got new ones. We have also been tempted by the 
many foam cushions people leave out with their trash on Thursday nights. Sometimes 
these seemingly dreamy cushy-cushies are infested with litde bugs that get in your skin 
and try to eat you. This is a condition to avoid. 

Another thing to watch out for is rat poison. The odd shop owner will sometimes 
pour bleach or other lethal substances onto the edible goodies outback to deter the pres- 
ence of our fellow dumpster divers, rats. Sometimes you can smell it, and sometimes 
there will be discoloration on the packaging. Be sure to inspect your score. 

Don't feel pressure to use or eat everything you retrieve from the trash — it's not your 
job to metabolize away the sins of our whole spendthrift civilization. In the case of those 
nutrient-free sugar cookies, remember — some things are in fact trash, from the very 
moment they're produced. Don't put them in your body — do what it takes to shut down 
the industries maniacally producing such junk. 

In the opposite situation, where you really need something but the ones holding it 
hostage won't oblige you by throwing it away, you can expedite the process by doing 
so yourself inside their establishment, or damaging it so they wall for you. In a related 
instance, one of us once got caught scamming massive quantities of photocopies from 
a copying corporation that purported to recycle their waste but in fact did not. All the 
precious fliers and 'zines she had produced were confiscated, but we dumpstered them 
back later that night. 

In the stimmer of 2000, foUovvdng my first few years of dumpstering and the attendant 
case of pack-ratitis, I found myself caught up in a great purging, an elimination of all 
the objects choking up my home. It started one Saturday afternoon around 1:00 p.m. 
as a simple room-cleaning, but sifiing through the layers of dumpstered knickknacks 
I started to set items aside that had to be returned to the source from whence they'd 
come. By 2:00, things had changed: I was throwing out cassette tapes and dirty clothes. 
By 2:45 1 was throwing away stacks of things I meant to mail to people, entrusting them 
to the other postal system. Soon I realized this was more than a mere physical cleansing 
of my dwelling space; it had become something primal, something that had to he done. 


If You're Not Careful 

Dumpster DiV/og 

You can take fruit that is about to 

go rotten and freeze it to mai<e 

smoothies, or mash it up to make 

fruit crisps or pie filling. 

If all that dumpstered fruit attracts 

fruit flies, you can control the 

situation with carnivorous plants. 

Dumpster Diving 

At 3:00 I started in on the home furnishings, and then the pots and pans. By 9:00 a.m. 
the next morning, my house was completely empty. I threw out all of my belongings 
as well as those of my brother, who was away for the weekend. I threw out the shelves 
from the refrigerator, and then dragged it onto to the street as well. The experience was 
simultaneously terrifying and Hberating. 

A few minutes later, as I lay naked and shivering on the bare floor trying to fall asleep, 
I looked out the window and saw my friend Jason digging through our trash, my old 
sneakers in one hand and the thrill of discovery on his face. 


Paper mach6 


Industrial stapler 






In this country, effigy-making has a rich radical heritage that stretches back to before the 
first American Revolution. If you can't actually overthrow, pummel, or set fire to your 
oppressor, it can certainly be heartening to do so to a surrogate; this is good for mo- 
rale, and also helps provide visibility for your discontent. That visibility can be danger- 
ous — authorities and counter-revolutionaries will do their best to enforce even symbolic 
respect of their idols— so be sure to deploy your effigy with plenty of supporters around, 
or a plan for escape; but such visibility can also be useful, not only to incite your fellows, 
but also to gauge and perhaps influence the sentiments of others. 

One well-known effigy format that benefits from its festive character is the pinata. 
Filled with candy or other goodies, associated with a participatory game that everyone 
wins, pinatas can be at once radical and accessible in every way For a stirring report of 
such effigies in action, read the account following the Distribution, Tabling, and Infoshops 
recipe (pg. 210). On the other hand, other situations may call for something more direct: 
the day a war starts or the results of a rigged election are announced, it might be appro- 
priate to take to the streets and set fire to an effigy of a political or military figure. Imag- 



ine the evening news trying to play that off as liberal disapproval! Even then, there's 
something to be said for destroying effigies that represent destructive concepts or forces 
rather than living, breathing individuals: this isn't a war of some people against others, 
like the wars of capitalism and hierarchy, but a war of all against war itself Indeed, what 
does it mean to bum an American flag? This is simply burning in effigy a hypocritical 
value system and genocidal legacy. 

When it comes to making effigies, anything goes, so long as the product is recogniz- 
able and will be destroyed by or survive your planned activities as you intend. Costume 
stores may have masks of your favorite subjects ready-made for you, especially around 
Halloween. Paper mache is especially good for pinatas. You can make it by heating 
three parts water and two parts cornstarch until it becomes thick; let it cool a bit, and 
apply it to newspaper to make it stick together. Stretch the wet newspaper over a wire 
frame, let it dry, and repeat, until the layers are durable but not impervious to a few 
powerful direct hits; now you can paint it. If you are indeed making a pinata, fill it with 
goodies through a hole you leave for last. You can also make piiiatas out of painted 
cardboard boxes, in a pinch. 

How We Made Our 
Puppet President 



We stole the rubbery, full-head mask from a corporate store. The body was double-lay- 
ered cardboard with tons of industrial staples and construction adhesive. This rigid un- 
derstructure was wrapped in lots of soft foam rubber like that found in cheap sofas. The 
head was the same foam rubber, sculpted into the appropriate shape and "upholstered" 
vidth a tightly fitting double layer of cloth. The head was made large enough that it had to 
be squeezed into the mask. This helped the mask stay on, sort of. The extra cloth of the 
neck was stapled and glued to the torso. The legs were stuffed tubes of cloth with thin 
pieces of wood built into them like bones so they would bend at the knees. There was no 
such bone structure in the upper arms. The lower arms were made of long poles; at one 

end there were homemade red cloth boxing gloves stuffed with foam, while at the other 
end of the arms wood stuck through the elbows of the shirt and suit to about three feet 
of extra length — these enabled a puppeteer behind the effigy to operate the boxing arms. 
Because our dummy had no hips, the shirt and pants of his dumpstered dress suit were 
sewn together at the waist — this is highly recommended for the brawling effigy. The 
whole thing hung from a pole on a thin rope; one person carried the pole, suspending 
the marionette in the air, while another stood behind it, operating the arms. When the 
pigs seized the pole from us at one demonstration, we were able to go on operating him 
for hours, the former pole bearer now holding the dummy aloft by means of the rope 
alone — and nursing sore hands for some time after! 

"Fuck you George — this one's for my brother!" The war cry came from a stocky gentle- 
man in a leprechaun suit whose uplifted elbow was headed straight for the President's 
eye. Bush and the leprechaun toppled over into a messy heap on the asphalt. We helped 
the two of them up and the leprechaun stumbled away. I had just barely gotten the com- 
mander in chief of the US military dusted off when another blow, this time a crushing 
uppercut, came out of nowhere and sent the President's rubber face sailing out over the 
crowd. The megaphone squealed and H— -'s voice boomed out "Ooooooooo, that one 
had to hurt, ladies and gentlemen! Now whooooo's next?" Meanwhile, B— - had run off 
into a little duster of sumo wrestlers to fetch the weary face of the 43'^ president of the 
United States of America. It was the fight of the decade! 

Ringside seats to political theater aren't exactly in high demand among the general 
public. But as luck would have it, downtown Chapel Hill's famous Halloween crowds 
handled all the logistics for us. Voila, 75,000 people ready for a wild night. And hell, 
we've all been to enough of these things to know how predictable they really are: way too 
many cross-dressing frat boys. Supermen by the dozen, fairies, fairies, fairies, and that 




guy who just runs around screaming, "Wooooo!" The scene was set for something — 
anything — to go down. 

That's where George came in — hanging on the end of a rope. Our effigy had a cloth- 
covered foam rubber head stuffed into a rubber Bush mask. He wore a dumpstered 
business suit (public figures sometimes dress down for the masses) and a pair of red 
boxing gloves. For an entourage, he had drummers, banner-bearers, stilt-walking capi- 
talist puppeteers and their corporate marionettes, and, of course, the ladies and gentle- 
men of "the press." One of our number played the ringside announcer, dressed in a tux 
and wielding a megaphone. He was the ham: "Get into the ring and take a swing at the 
king!" "Introducing — in the left comer, we have the challenger — ^uh, what's your name, 
sir.^" "Texas, Afghanistan, Iraq . . . Chapel Hill, YOU'RE NEXT!" 

In fact, to our delight, we found that the crowd needed very little encouragement. On 
our way to the event, a taxi driver with Hmited English pulled over just to give the com- 
mander in chief a tidy thumping. With a little coaching and encouragement, chuckling 
liberals would give a symbolic tap on the nose— but most folks took it to the Prez with 
vicious abandon. The tightly fitted mask was knocked clean off the "dummy" too many 
times to count. Over and over the "puppet" was ripped from our hands by a hail of fists. 
When he crumpled to the ground, the crowd would commence kicking and jumping on 
his body in a manner we are more accustomed to seeing cops use on poor people. Each 
individual's response to the effigy seemed to refiect the particular level of repression he 
or she suffered at the hands of the regime: members of the demoralized and depressed 
but safe classes tended to give a little tap; those demographically most likely to face state 
violence were themselves ultra- violent. 
Effig/es After three hours of continuous assaults, our dummy was almost completely demol- 

252 ished. Hundreds had dealt blows. Thousands had watched in astonishment at the anger 

his presence inspired. Everyone knew how things would go down if the head of state 
found himself on the mean streets of Chapel Hill without his bodyguards. 

As usual, what carried the event was humor and good cheer. I hardly stopped laugh- 
ing for three hours straight. This atmosphere left little opportunity for the few pro- Bush 
folks to try anything, and the spectacle of the vast majority of the crowd doing violence to 
their figurehead of choice helped deter them from threatening violence themselves. Ev- 
ery now and then a troubled Republican would come up to the Prez, saying something 
like, "You're a good man, you've got my vote in '04." Bush would respond by socking 
them in the face! Such realism! 

In sum: as keen observers, we feel that it is our patriotic duty to report what could 
be construed as latent feelings of violence, resentment, and readiness to brawl direct- 
ed at the President of the United States of America. Now let's get something straight: 
we do not suggest or condone engaging in fisticuffs with the President, When dealing 
with the President, we strongly advise against uppercuts, crushing rights, left hooks, 
jabs, roundhouse kicks, knuckle sandwiches, resounding smacks, boots in the ass or 
crotch area, blows to the ribs or face, haymakers, boxing of ears, or any combination of 
bonks, thwacks, swats, or pokes. If you are concerned about the world and want to effect 
change, such roughhousing is simply unacceptable. We recommend going through the 
established channels: being ultra-rich, rigging elections, and allowdng airplanes to fly 
into buildings. 




Getting the Fuck 
Outta There toi 


The art of escape is one of those things that can't be taught, least of all by books: you 
have to learn it on your feet. All the same, it's good for us to talk and write about such 
things, to demystify them and help each other build up the confidence for that learn- 
ing process. 

When your cover is blown and all that stands between your freedom and those who 
would seize it are your wits and your running legs, you'll be surprised how much wid- 
er the margin is between "in trouble" and captured than it appeared from a distance. 
The average ex-bourgeois lawbreaker lives in terror of being caught in the act, driven 
by unresolved feelings of guilt to fixate on this possibility out of all proportion to the 
difficulties it would actually involve; in fact, it can be a big relief to no longer be sneaking 
around consumed by anxiety, but finally have everything on the table in a simple contest 
between yourself and your enemies. The first time you find yourself running from the 
police, you'll discover a new relationship to your body: you will be present in it entirely, 
and it will serve you well, as bodies have served human beings fleeing from predators 
since the dawn of time. It may even be profoundly empowering to discover that, in addi- 
tion to all the capabilities your mind affords you, you have this, too: the strength of your 
muscles, the speed of your reflexes, and the sharpness of your instincts. Besides, your 
pursuers are just running for a paycheck; you are running for your life. 

But what do you do once you're being pursued? Let's back up a bit. First, there's a 
time to play it cool, and a time to run. Nothing identifies you as an ouflaw like taking 

off running. If the alarm goes off as you leave a store, for example, youll generally be 
better off walking calmly until you're at least out the door; if you're the only one not 
fleeing when the pohce charge at a crowd as it breaks up, they just might nin past you. 
Your ability to act as if nothing strange is happening is your best passport to safety. Don't 
panic — but don't freeze up, either! 

Second, know whether you want to run in the first place. If there is little chance of 
escape, it might make sense to quit while you're behind and face the music. Even sur- 
rounded, you might still be able to deadpan your way out of the situation. Never under- 
estimate the power of sticking to your alibi— you did already work one out, didn't you? 

Speaking of bluffing your way out, if you're trying to pass as harmless passersby, 
nothing looks harmless like a cute male-female couple with their arms around each 
other and an intimate conversation in progress. I've breezed out of many a sketchy situ- 
ation at the side of a stranger of the opposite sex who was willing to take my arm and 
gaze into my eyes as we walked past the pohce. 

Don't wait for the heat to show up to beat your retreat; as soon as you have reason to 
believe they've been called— say, an illegal act is openly committed in sight of potentially 
law-abiding, 911-dialing citizens— begin counting down the time you presume it will 
take them to arrive and get abreast of what is going on, and make sure that you and 
yours are on your way by then if you're not planning on facing them down somehow. 

Hopefiilly, you've already charted escape routes from the area, or at least noted them 
in passing. Whether you're planning a route well in advance or improvising on the fly, 
you're probably either going to want to get entirely out of the area swiftly and without 
being observed, or get to a place with heavy crowd cover and disappear into it. If you're 
attempting the former, watch for spaces like alleys and dog-free backyards that you can 
move through without being seen; if you're counting on doing the latter, make sure you 
can actually melt into the crowd at hand. Escaping into crowd cover is especially useful 

You can avoid the headaches of 
having your vehicle towed, ticketed, 
or targeted by not parking near 
demonstrations or direct actions. 
Always distribute copies of keys, or 
hide one somewhere accessible — e.g., 
zip-tied under the automobile — in 
case your driver is arrested. 



You can throw an old piece of carpet 

over barbed wire to make it easy to 

climb over (figure ojj; two layers 

should suffice where one doesn't. 


when a large number of people are all seeking to disappear at once. Keep in mind that 
there are some places — ^woods, for example — that police may not follow you, at least not 
if they are alone; security guards may not even leave the property they are hired to guard. 
Wherever you go, don't get boxed in, whether in alley or thicket. 

When it comes to transportation, cars are rarely safe to use near the scene of the 
crime: they're tagged for easy identification by your enemies, and those enemies have 
dominion over almost all the places you can drive them, too. If you use them, try to 
make sure that your driver is the least likely of you to be arrested before your getaway, 
and that your drop-off and pick-up points are out of sight from where the action goes 
down; you can use a stolen license plate or obscure your plate with mud, but check out 
the potential legal consequences first to make sure it's worth the risk. If you are on foot 
and hoping to stay out of sight, and your driver is roving the area waiting to pick you 
up when you're ready, you could leave a marker out at the pick-up point until you arrive 
there, remove it, and hide nearby until the car pulls over. 

Bicycles are often useful, as they are quiet, easy to conceal, can go places cars cannot, 
and can be abandoned in an emergency. Even though they don't have registration to 
give them away, they can still be connected to you by description, so either use a bicycle 
other than your own, or stash it someplace where you can get on it out of sight of pur- 
suers and ride away unobserved. Leave your bicycle unlocked for quickest accessibility. 
There's always public transportation, though it can be unreliable and you probably 
don't want anyone to be able to identify you as having been near the scene of the crime. 
If those pursuing you are in vehicles, you can slow them down by pulling obstacles into 
their path. 

If you're surrounded and there's no way out of an area, you can always find a good 
hiding place and sit tight. Remember when choosing hiding places and escape routes 
that if you are chased by pohce at night, they vidll probably use spotlights to follow you. 

So many have escaped the claws of so-called justice by leaping into dumpsters that it's 
practically a coming-of-age ritual in some circles. In Miami, fleeing from a charging 
force of three thousand police fanning out across the district in cars, tanks, and bicycle 
brigades, my affinity group found ourselves encircled on all sides, with police on every 
street ahead of, around, and behind us; we fled into a small alley, and hid there among 
weeds and trash for several hours until night fell and the police lines moved forward, 
leaving us to sneak away in tremidous pairs. 

Don't rule out the possibility that locals will help you out of a tight spot, either, though 
some are more likely to do so than others. We wouldn't have known which way to go out 
of the aforementioned alley if neighborhood locals hadn't been waiting to guide us to 
safety; of course, that was an impoverished black ghetto, and things might have played 
out differently in a bourgeois suburb. You may also be able to pass yourself off as a cus- 
tomer in a bar or club, if you're not breathing too heavily. 

If you're in foreign territory, try to make sure you have somewhere to go if you can't 
get back together wdth your partners. I'll never forget the night I got chased by a police 
car after putting up graffiti for the next day's demonstration; it was a rainy January 
night, and of course I shed my outer layers of clothing in the course of flight, so it was 
a cold, wet eight hours walking around back streets kiUing time until the demonstra- 
tion started. 

If you're carrying potentially incriminating evidence that doesn't bear your finger- 
prints, and there's any chance you will be caught, dispose of it in the safest place you can 
in the course of your flight. Better you don't have it on you if they do get you; you can 
come back to the scene later, if possible, and remove it. Wear layers of clothing — better 
yet, a persuasive wig — that you can strip off as soon as you're out of eyesight; just make 
sure when you come out looking like a different person, you do so in character, not run- 
ning desperately in the same direction you were a second earlier! 


You can create a distraction by 

announcing that you've lost a 

contact lens and insisting that 

everyone help you find it, or at 

least stay off a given floorspace. 



Post lookouts, either immediately around the field of engagement, or at a distance 
with communications equipment; make sure they can't easily be associated with the one 
doing the action, not least so they can pull the "she went that-a-way" trick if the chance 
arises. If you're the one going for it, don't let your guard down just because you have 
lookouts — ^you never know what will happen. If you're a lookout, don't panic and run 
just because the one you were watching on behalf of is running. 

If there are many of you, escape can be more complicated. First of all, before doing 
anything risky in a group, make sure your planned method of escape, should that be nec- 
essary is something everyone in the group is comfortable with, capable of, and clear on. 
In case you spHt up during the chase, set a location to reconvene, or have someone some- 
where at a telephone who can receive calls from people and coordinate them or come 
pick them up. Sphtting up can make pursuit more difficult, but it can also mean giving 
up the chance to help each other or outnumber the opposition. If you're being followed, 
be carefiil not to lead your enemies to your getaway vehicle or convergence point. 

After any larger action that breaks up in flight from the poHce, get back together at a 
safe location as soon as possible. If you are unsure of whether everyone escaped, make a 
list of everyone who is unaccotmted for, and set about locating them. Try to verify rumors 
about who has been arrested and what happened to them. Start collecting a bail fund, if 
necessary, and consider composing an announcement to circulate over the internet to 
your community about who has been arrested and what people can do to help. If you 
don't know all the people involved, get contact information for everyone, in case a court 
case necessitates that you be in touch with them to agree on a story, request their assis- 
tance as witnesses, or make use of any documentation they may have of the events. 

Finally, and perhaps obviously, if your escape plans — or any you might need to make 
on the fly — necessitate athletic prowess, make sure you exercise in advance! 

'Twas the night before classes started, and there was a perfect site for graffiti on the 
campus: an alley between two buildings, invisible from the street, through which all pe- 
destrian traffic in the area was being routed on account of construction work. We'd done 
some impressive artwork on the campus over the preceding year, so it was good that this 
location offered high visibility without much risk, as the authorities were actively seek- 
ing the ones guilty of free expression. 1 invited two friends to come along as lookouts so 
1 could relax and decorate the area wdth the thoroughness it deserved; I made a point of 
dressing differently than them, in a borrowed patent leather jacket and ridiculous faux- 
fur hat with my long hair packed up into it. I left my bicycle unlocked for quick access 
at a rack by the street on one side of the alley, posted one friend there and the other near 
the other entrance, briefly surveyed the scene, and set to work. 

I hadn't even finished the third word when, sensing motion out of the comer of my 
eye, I turned my head to see a maintenance worker a few yards away, walking right 
toward me! Talk about bad luck — it himed out there was one door inside the perimeter 
secured by the two lookouts, and he had just walked out of it. What he was doing there 
well after midnight, I still don't know. I reacted before he did, capping my spray paint 
can and sliding it down the sleeve of my jacket as I broke into a steady run. Seeing me 
do so, he gave chase. 

An instant later I passed my friend; our eyes met just long enough for her to sense 
what was going on. She began walking toward the alley, so as to appear to be a pass- 
erby who had not yet seen what was happening. I later learned that the maintenance 
employee, hot on my heels, asked her which way the person he was chasing had run, 
and she pointed him in the wrong direction; he looked in that direction, toward a broad 
expanse of empty campus, saw no one, and stopped to radio the pohce. She passed 
through the alley, met my other friend, and left the area. Some time later, when it was 
clear I wouldn't be getting it, one of them returned for my bicycle. 


You can save yourself some grief by 
learning to identify the headlights of 
local police cars from a distance. 


You can protect your home from 

police dogs by laying down a thin 

line of cayenne pepper across each 

doorway; the dogs will pause to sniff 

it on their way in, and won't be able 

to smell anything else for a while. 

Fortunately, we had cased this area for a more serious action, so I had a route al- 
ready worked out. I ran along a pedestrian walkway between two construction sites, then 
across a major street — reheved not to encounter any cars to speak of— and along the 
side of a dormitory. I climbed a short slope, tossed my spray paint can into a bush from 
which 1 retrieved it the next day, then ran a couple more blocks through parking lots 
and driveways. A poHce car passed on the street across the lot to my left, but the driver 
didn't see me, as I disappeared quickly between two buildings. I made it to a bicycle 
path that bore me through a wooded area into a residential neighborhood; here, I took 
off my jacket and ridiculous hat, and began walking at a moderate pace, trying to get my 
breathing under control after sprinting half a mUe. 

There was one more long stretch I had to cross before I was out of the area, a major 
thoroughfare that would have gone swiftly on a bicycle but took some time to walk. Had 
this been a more serious situation, I would have laid low in the wooded area for a while, 
but I figured I was pretty much in the clear. I stayed on the shadowy side of the street 
for most of it; a pohce car passed by once, slowly. As I approached the end of the street, 
where I would have to cross it, the pohce car returned and slowed to a crawl. There was 
no way around it, I had to cross the street, and if I panicked and ran again I would reveal 
myself to be their quarry, this time out of disguise. I walked as slowly and nonchalantly 
as I could, right in front of the police car that had now stopped. The officer scrutinized 
me through the vvindshield, but I didn't match the description on the radio. I got to 
the other side of the street, and switched to another car-free bicycle path that led out of 
downtown. Fuck those motherfuckers, I was outta there. 

The moral of the story? Always spray paint the circle-A ^rst, so even if you're inter- 
rupted mid-sentence, people will know where you're coming from! 



Promotion (optional) 
Entertainment and activities 


A staging location 


So you want to throw a festival! Maybe you want to have a good time, in a way that shows Instructions 
what a better time we could all be having. Maybe you want to get people together, and 
you've noticed how many more people will come out for a party than for a protest. Or 
maybe you're trying to provide for the needs of your community directly, in the long- 
standing tradition of direct action, and you figure togetherness, excitement, and amuse- 
ment are human needs as much as food and shelter. If we can't dance, who's going to 
be part of our revolution, right? And there's something to be said for making friends 
during peacetime, so there will be people looking out for you when war is on. 

What will the theme of your festival be? It could be "anarchism," but then it might 
only attract people who consider themselves anarchists. Better, hold a street fair orga- 
nized according to anarchist principles, or a music festival exploring anarchic aesthet- 
ics, or a dance party with anarchist implications. If you must be topical, try demonstrat- 
ing your thesis in practice, rather than just talking about it. For example, if you want to 
address alternative economics, you could hold a "Really Really Free Market," to which 
people bring gifts and resources to share without money changing hands or count being 
kept, and thus present a working example of a gift economy. 241 

What will the structure of your festival be? Will you script events to be staged for 
spectators, or establish a framework that enables groups to contribute autonomously? 
A core group can envision possibilities and coordinate complex plans a less organized 
mass cannot, and in a civilization based on spectatorship it can be dangerous to rely too 
much on the spontaneous contributions of others. On the other hand, there's no reason 
to limit your event to what you and your fellow organizers can imagine. Leave room for 
others to bring and deploy their own ideas, and brainstorm about how different groups 
could be involved; the more points of departure within your event, the more these can 
bring people together and complement one another. Just like revolutions, the very best 
festivals are open-ended, encouraging groups to organize within them as they see fit in 
ways that add up to a whole much greater than the sum of its parts. 

Who will be invited to your festival? Once again, there are goals that a homogenous 
group can accomplish together that would be impossible in more mixed company, but 
there's also a lot to be said for bridging divides and nurturing symbiotic relationships 
between communities. Consider ways to draw upon different circles, soliciting the par- 
ticipation of individuals and groups that will engage them. 

Where, when, and how will you hold your festival? It is often difficult to get people to 
come to places they've never been, or to participate in unfamiliar activities; think about 
how to take advantage of routines or interests that are already established, or integrate 
your event into existing social forms. As for timing and location, it can be beneficial to 
pick a space that receives a lot of traffic, so passersby can witness or join in your events. 
To maximize this potential, pick an area that is frequented by demographics that are 
likely to be interested; for example, a Reclaim the Streets (pg. 421) action might draw 
more spontaneous participation in an arts-oriented neighborhood than it would in an 
Festivals industrial area. Depending on the scale of your event and the local context, it may be 
242 necessary to seek a permit from the local administration; when doing so, don't mis- 

represent your project completely, but don't tell them anything they won't understand 
or don't need to know. Serious police attention and repression can interfere witJi your 
project, or be turned to your advantage, depending on your strategy; if you're hoping to 
avoid it, it might be wise not to announce it in forums, such as direct action websites, 
that they already associate v^dth trouble. 

How will you promote your festival.^ Posters, stickers, press releases, word of mouth, 
the internet, announcements on college radio stations: all are fair game, unless your fes- 
tival must be a secret to succeed. Certain kinds of press attention may be inconvenient 
for any kind of event; for these, contact the media yourself, being as boring and ttnre- 
markable as possible, so as to deter them in advance (see Mainstream Media, pg. 358). 
As for whether to associate festivals vdth political perspectives, be judicious: sometimes 
this can increase interest, sometimes it can distract or alienate. Don't be afraid to be out 
of the closet about where you're coming from, just make sure that doesn't limit who else 
feels comfortable participating. 

We decided to take advantage of our relationship with the local independent movie the- 
ater to hold a radical film festival. Instead of screening little-knovra. independent movies 
of a radical bent, we would try the opposite tack: we would screen mainstream movies 
with subversive implications, in the most radicalizing atmosphere we could create. We 
hoped this would bring out people who would never attend an obscure subcultural event 
yet shared our interest in thinking and living differently, and give them the opportunity 
to get connected to others with the same desires. To make this work, we solicited help 
from everyone we knew, inviting people to offer workshops to share their skills or set up 
literature tables on behalf of their infoshops and organizations. 

We covered the streets of our town with hundreds of fliers and a few dozen six-foot 
posters over the weeks leading up to the event, promoting it as a "heArt and Film Festi- 



You can make messenger bags, 

shoes, neckties, and ball gowns 

by ironing a few layers of plastic 

grocery bags together: set the iron 

on "cotton," sandwich the plastic 

between paper grocery bags so it 

won't stick, and be quick. After you've 

made a few sheets of different colors, 

cut out images or text and iron them 

onto a background of plastic bags; 

presto, plastic patch designs. 

You can sew with dental floss. 


val": four days of movies, skillshares, and other activities. To put our money where our 
rhetoric was, we declared that on the main day of the festival, everything would be free. 
This was a gamble — our efforts to talk the theater into giving us cheap rates had only 
been partially successful, and we had failed to persuade anyone to sponsor the event, 
so it was optimistic to think we could afford to rent the place and all the film reels with 
the proceeds of just a few movie showdngs. All the same, we posted a schedule on the 
internet and sent out a press release, which got us coverage from the local paper. 

The event started quietly, on a Thursday. For this day, in order to save money, we 
didn't rent the theater, and instead put on the free skillshares — radical graphic design, 
pirate radio, and graffiti — in a room at the public library and a local independent show 
space. About thirty people showed up to each. The graffiti skillshare spilled out into the 
streets at the end, to decorate the walls in preparation for the weekend. Some people 
showed up firom out of town, and we arranged for locals to house them. We also printed 
up programs for all the weekend's activities, and distributed them thickly. 

The next day was the first day in the theater, so we showed up early to cover the walls 
with radical posters and set out tables of free literature, homemade radical fortune cook- 
ies, and dumpstered organic fruit juice. Many people from our commxmity of dropouts 
and dissidents brought free food, dumpstered goods, and reading material of their own 
to share, and put these out on the tables as well. During the day, the theater hosted 
six free skillshares: bicycle repair, folk dancing, drumming (in which stolen drumsticks 
were distributed free to everyone who showed up), an herb walk showing all the edible 
and medicinal plants that grew locally, a discussion entitled "how to cripple privilege" 
about the ways able-bodied people can be aUies to the handicapped, and print-making, 
the results of which were soon pasted up all over the walls. That night we charged for 
two showings of fig^t Club and one of Brazil Before each, there was a speaker: one was 
introduced by radical cheerleading, another by a spirited anarchist manifesto, another by 

the widow of a man the poHce had recently murdered; she was being silenced by the local 
media and deserved a chance to speak to the public. In one intermission, we opened the 
theater up again, so a local cop-watch group could offer a free presentation on dealing 
with the police. Quite a few people showed up, but the theater wasn't sold out by any 
means; there probably weren't more than a hundred people in it at any given time. 

The next day was the free day. In addition to the previous day's decorations and ame- 
nities, we added a massage table, at which a local massage therapist gave free massages, 
and a screenprinting table, at which people could learn screenprinting and print free 
shirts; the local Food Not Bombs group also provided fall meals of delicious free food, 
and free groceries for anyone who needed them as well. We showed four movies, includ- 
ing Spike Lee's Malcolm X, and Three Kings, a Hollywood action movie uncharacteristi- 
cally critical of the first Gulf War, to which a local antiwar professor gave an eloquent 
introduction. The theater was packed throughout the day with a diverse but predomi- 
nantly white audience, reaching its fullest during the showing of the former movie; that 
was perhaps one of our most important achievements of the weekend, that we got so 
many white people out to learn black history. 

We had a trick up our sleeves, too, so that our demonstration of alternative economics 
would not be limited to the movie theater. During the day, we passed around hints that 
there would be an exciting adventure after the last showing. At the end of the day's final 
movie, a woman leaped onto the stage and tremblingly declared that a group was going 
out to take over an empty house nearby to show what positive things could be done with 
vacant buildings, and that everyone was invited to participate. Proclaiming this publicly 
was a risk of sorts, but as it turned out, word didn't reach the police; not only that, but a 
majority of the people in the theater decided to come along! 

In order to avoid attracting the wrong kind of attention, the crowd split into smaller Pesthals 
groups, each following a guide along a different route to converge at the abandoned 24s 

building. In minutes, the place was bustling with life: people who had never squat- 
ted a building before were sweeping up dust, covering the windows, and exploring the 
basement. After a few minutes, everyone who wanted to stay in the building for the 
night packed tightly into one cramped room to hold a discussion about pressing issues: 
how to handle the police if they showed up, what the goals and priorities of the action 
should be, and what to announce to the community at large about the event. A pamphlet 
on squatting that some people had prepared in advance was distributed. For me, the 
most exciting moment of the whole weekend came during this meeting, when I looked 
around and saw that two teenagers who had come from out of tov^m for the festival were 
there in the group, their eyes wide with the magic of what we were doing. 

The next day, before each of the four movies, we read aloud a statement the squatting 
group had prepared about their action, taking advantage of the assembled audiences to 
publicize it. Food Not Bombs served again, and two radical infoshops from the region set 
up tables in the foyer to distribute books and literature. One of the movies was not a Hol- 
lywood affair, but a whimsical French documentary about dumpster diving; we preceded 
it with series of brief documentaries one of our colleagues had compiled on the subjects 
of thinktanks and folk science, accompanied by a live voiceover. In the intermission that 
followed, we opened the theater up again for a free slideshow and discussion on squat- 
ting around the world. The numbers in attendance for this day were lower, again, as they 
had been on Friday; many of the people who had been involved before spent the day at 
the squat, cleaning it up and watching for police, who fortunately did not appear. 

On the day following the film festival, those of us who had worked hard to organize 

it were totally exhausted. All the same, one more skillshare took place — ^the advanced 

Pg5j,-^^,j course on graphic design, following up Thursday's introductory workshop — and that 

2^6 night, the group that had remained in the squatted house opened it up to the public 

for a commimity potluck and dinner. The house was crowded with people eating deli- 
cious food, getting to know one another better, and discussing the pros and cons of the 
weekend's event. 

Was our festival a success? Not unequivocally. We lost quite a bit of money, and the 
people of our town haven't yet risen up to replace capitalism with ex- workers' councils 
and gift economics. The dates we had picked for the festival were in the middle of vidnter, 
right at the end of the semester for local college students, and many people were busy 
or had already left on vacation. Also, I feel we should have varied more from the for- 
mat of showing movies; after three days of constant movie-watching, the contradictions 
between our goals of motivating people and the spectatorship-based medium we had 
chosen for a starting place were painfully obvious. Our towri didn't quite have enough 
people to support a radical film festival of the kind we staged, and we were counting on 
the proceeds from the films to cover our expenses; people came out to see a movie or 
two, but your average cinema-goer won't go out to see more than a couple of movies in 
a three-day period, and for understandable reasons the greatest number of people chose 
the firee day to show up. If we had held the same event in a larger city, it would probably 
have worked out, assuming our costs hadn't been higher As it was, we might have been 
better oif breaking up the movies wdth other kinds of performances and events, and 
renting fewer movie reels. 

On the other hand, we pulled oflF a very idealistic experiment, and survived to learn 
from it. If nothing else, our festival was part of a string of cultural events that serve to 
build and maintain the radical social base in our community, and it did involve a wider 
range of people than the average activist rally. Until every radical is connected to a com- 
munity and every community is radicalized, events like this should be happening con- 
stantly, so people can meet each other and be exposed to new possibilities. 247 


Food Not Bombs 


There are a very few things you 
need to start a Food Not Bombs. 


like Crimethlnc, "Food Not Bombs" is something between a strategy and an organiza- 
tion: the basic idea is that people get together in public on a regular basis to cook and 
share free food. The concept behind Food Not Bombs is so simple you could start one 
on your own even if you'd never seen one anywhere else; if there isn't a Food Not Bombs 
in your town, it's time to start one. Food Not Bombs doesn't simply feed people and re- 
distribute resources — it is one of the most common and effective ways for people to get 
their first taste of anarchist politics and action. You can't look long at all those mounds 
of discarded food and all those people who could use a good free meal without begin- 
ning to question the basic principles of a society that values wasteful consumption over 
common sense. Food Not Bombs is a gateway drug to activism. 

An understanding of and 
agreement with the three 

a place and time to cook 

a place and time to serve 

a core of volunteers 


Basic large-size cooking 

pots and pans 
Serving containers 

a few staple ingredients 


Mone y- for at least not much of it) 

There are also a few things you don't 
need to start a Food Not Bombs. 

Let's start with an understanding of and agreement with the three principles of Food 
Not Bombs. Although there is no central office or board of directors of Food Not Bombs, 
all the groups adhere to three basic principles — Consensus, Non- Violence, and Veg- 
etarianism. Consensus is another way of saying non-hierarchical organizing, which is 
in itself a way of saying anarchism. Food Not Bombs is not a charity with "us" giving 
food to "them"; as an anarchist organization, part of its purpose is to provide people the 
means to effect change in their own lives, and to break through the barriers of class, 
race, gender, age, ethnicity, and all other artificial boundaries that keep people separated 
from one another. It is an opportunity for people to decide for themselves how much 
they want to be involved; the power in Food Not Bombs lies with the people who choose 
to use it, within the framework of group consensus. 

Food Not Bombs is a practical hands-on protest against the violence of poverty and 
hunger. An empty stomach is as painful as a punch in the stomach; chronic hunger is as 
damaging, both physically and psychologically, as any other form of torture. Poverty and 
hunger shorten lives, drive people into addiction, eat away at pride and self-reliance. In 
some parts of the world — notably San Francisco, where thousands of people have been 
arrested over the last decade for the simple act of serving food in Golden Gate Park — 
Food Not Bombs is met with violence and repression. The typical Food Not Bombs reac- 
tion is simply to keep serving, with backup food if necessary. Food Not Bombs is based 
on direct action, not coercion; when it is met with coercion, it takes action. 

Food Not Bombs meals are always vegetarian and often vegan. There are several rea- 
sons for this. The production of meat is an inherently violent process and therefore 


You can approach any restaurant 
or supermarket, presenting 
yourself as a representative of a 
charity organization, and asi<to 
make use of their leftovers. Try this 
twice at each establishment, once 
with the management and once 
with the workforce. 

Food Not Bombs 

Figure out which trees and bushes 
around your town produce edible 
treats, so you can feast from the 
vine. Exchange this information 
with others, distributing maps if 
need be — make sure not a single 
blackberry or pear goes to waste. 

Food Not Bombs 

runs counter to the Food Not Bombs philosophy of non-violence; vegetarian meals like 
the ones cooked at Food Not Bombs are healthier than meat-based meals, and serve as 
a vivid demonstration that meat is not an essential ingredient; vegetarian meals are less 
expensive than meat-centered meals, so resources can be stretched further; and meals 
prepared without animal products are safer and less prone to spoiling. 

If you can agree to these principles you are ready to start your ovm Food Not Bombs. 
What else do you need? 

A place and time to cook. Food Not Bombs meals are cooked in all sorts of kitchens, 
from punk houses to churches to community centers to mobile propane ranges. A pub- 
lic kitchen in a church or community center is ideal if you have one available, not only 
because it is probably already outfitted with the institutional-sized pots and pans you 
will need for cooking in quantity, but because a wider variety of people may feel more 
comfortable cooking in a neutral setting than they would in a private home. Whatever 
kind of place you cook, make sure you choose a place that has some permanence (and, if 
it's in a house, that all the house members agree to let Food Not Bombs use the kitchen); 
try to find a place that is accessible to people with disabilities. Allow a minimum of an 
hour and a half for cooking. 

A place and time to serve. This may take a little experimenting before you get it right. 
Start by finding out when and where other groups serve meals in your community so you 
are not duplicating efforts — one way to do that is to go eat at a local soup kitchen and sim- 
ply ask the people eating there where else they eat and if they have any recommendations 
about when and where you should serve. In most communities. Food Not Bombs serves 
outside and often in highly visible locations — ^both to make the meals easy for people to 
find, and to make unavoidable tlie points that hunger exists in America and that people 
can be fed. In addition to regular, consistent servings, Food Not Bombs groups often make 
themselves available to serve food at conferences, protests, and other special events. 

A core of volunteers. It takes surprisingly few people to put together an active, self-sus- 
taining Food Not Bombs, but it may take a little while to get the right mix of volunteers. 
Put up fliers, talk to people, table at shows and events, rope in your friends to start, but 
keep working to make your volunteer group as diverse and committed as possible. This 
is important first of all because it is natural for any volunteer group to devolve into a 
small group of the same people who show up every week; if those people burn out or 
have trouble getting along with each other the whole organization can fall apart quickly. 
In communities where there are several Food Not Bombs servings, volunteers often 
sort themselves out into affinity group-like teams of people with similar tastes and back- 
grounds. This is fine so long as all interested groups are represented somehow; some 
people may not have the means or the experience to form a group of their own. One of 
the nicest things that can happen is that the people serving and the people eating begin 
to overlap. I was telling a woman recently that we had several homeless men among 
our volunteers. "That's good," she said. "It means more to them if they have to work for 
it." That statement simply doesn't make sense in the Food Not Bombs context: there is 
no "they" — and cooking is too much fun to call work. It is nice, though, to make Food 
Not Bombs a welcoming place to people who are often made to feel that they don't have 
anything to contribute — never forget to reach out, and always remember that an open 
door is not enough. Some people — not just homeless people, but older people, younger 
people, middle-class people, your mom^ — •may need extra encouragement to feel that 
they truly are welcome in the kitchen. 

Transportation. Transportation is an obvious ingredient — you'll need at least one car 
or bicycle to pick up food and perhaps carry it to the location where you serve. Keep this 
in mind as you recruit volunteers, and make sure you've got backup drivers. 

Basic large-size cooking pots and pans, a few staple ingredients, and serving containers and 
utensils. If the kitchen you are using doesn't have big pots and pans, you'll need to get 

You can compile a monthly calendar 
of events that include free food 
(e.g., art openings, city council 
extravaganzas) and circulate it to 
hungry people. 

You can start a food co-op with your 
friends and neighbors — ordering food 
in bulk for all of you will save you a lot 
of money. 

Food Not Bombs 

You can combine free food and 

outreach or provocation by making 

and giving out fortune cookies. Tailor 

the fortunes to the situation and 

recipient demographics, and if you 

can't figure out how to make actual 

fortune cookies, just put the fortunes 

in little baggies with any sweet treat. 

You can establish community 

gardens, w\th plots open for 

people to grow their own food, or 

volunteer programs for them to 

participate and share in the harvest. 

Many people already have yards 

that go untended, and there are 

always those abandoned lots . . . 

Food Not Bombs 

some. Basic cooking equipment includes a large soup pot, a large frying pan, some bak- 
ing trays (disposable foil pans can be reused for quite a while), big spoons for stirring 
and serving, and sharp knives. You can look in thrift shops, yard sales, and dumpsters 
for cooking equipment, but don't overlook restaurant supply places, v^^hich sometimes 
have back rooms where they sell damaged and second-hand equipment cheap. 

Staple ingredients include salt, pepper, spices, vinegar, and oil (ohve oil if you can 
afford it — olive oil makes just about anything taste better and you can stretch it by mix- 
ing it with cheaper canola oil). Serving containers can be anything from plates and 
bowls to recycled plastic tofu boxes; ask around for donations and you'll be surprised 
how many people have dishes and pans to give away. 

Food. Believe me, the food is out there. Start by asking your local food co-op, if you 
have one, to save its wilted and spotty vegetables and other expired goods for you. Go to 
bakeries at closing time and ask for the bread they are going to throw away (for some 
reason, bakeries tend to bake much more than they can sell; in my town they often put 
the bags of leftover bread out by the back door rather than in the dumpster, in hopes that 
someone can use it). A local steakhouse gives us their leftover baked potatoes at the end 
of the night, plus their prepped lettuce and tomatoes — talk to restaurants and caterers 
about what they might be willing to donate. If you still need more food, go dumpster 
diving: we have a standing Wednesday night date to go through three grocery store 
dumpsters to see what we can find, which yields us enough not only to serve 30 or 40 
people the next day, but to put extra groceries out for people to take home. If you dump- 
ster food, however, make sure that you are not stripping dumpsters other people depend 
on — ^we do our dumpstering in a suburban neighborhood where we are not competing 
with anyone. 

Highly developed cooking skills. It helps to have at least one volunteer with some cooking 
experience, but cooking really isn't aU that hard. 

Money. Most of your food will come to you for nothing — that's part of the point. You 
may however, need some start-up money for pots and other equipment, and you'll need 
to spend money occasionally on oil, rice, etc. Don't turn down donations — ^you can put 
out a jar if you like (we prefer not to do it at regular servings because we don't want any- 
one to feel bad about not making a donation, but we do put one out at special events). 
Other ways to raise money include benefit shows, yard sales of dumpstered items, and 
selling patches or other things. Don't let lack of money keep you from starting a group- — 
it will work out much more easily than you might think. 

Permission. The only permission you need is the consensus of the group — ^you don't 
need approval from a central office or anyone else to get started. Some people worry 
about the legal liability of giving away free food; you can explain to them that yotir activi- 
ties are covered by the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Act, a federal law protecting 
people who give away food from lawsuits. If you feel that you need a permit from your 
city to set up a serving in a park or other location by all means look into it, but most 
groups don't bother — in fact, one of the underlying points of Food Not Bombs is that no 
one should have to ask permission to serve food to people who want it. 

What you don't need 

You can cook food on the engine of 
a car while driving it — just wrap it in 
tinfoil and wedge it in safe and tight 
near the exhaust manifold. 

Just about anything can be soup. Saute onions and garlic in oil, add water (enough to 

fill up your pot about three quarters full), drop in chopped vegetables, bring to a boil 
and lower the heat to a simmer. Add spices, herbs, and salt to taste. For a thicker soup 
put in a handful of rice, some pasta, some lentils, or some diced potatoes. Takes about 
forty-five minutes. 

Stir-fiy is basically like soup without the water. Follow the directions above, using a big 
frying pan instead of a pot. Serve with rice or other grains. Takes about forty-five minutes. 

All- Purpose Recipes 

Food Not Bombs 

You can bake cookies or cakes 

and present them on behalf of the 

anarchist underground to underpaid 

librarians, toll collectors who turn a 

blind eye for the poor, and anyone 

else who deserves recognition. 

Cut Up any kind of greens besides lettuce, using everything but the stems, and put 
them in a frying pan or pot with a httle oil to prevent sticking. Add a tiny bit of wa- 
ter — ^the greens will give out their own moisture as they cook. Add a little vinegar to 
taste and season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg if you've got it. Fill the pot as full as 
you can and keep turning the greens as they cook — ^they will shrink dramatically Keep 
adding greens, stirring and turning occasionally. Turn off the heat before the greens are 
completely limp and colorless and cover the pot until you are ready to serve. Takes about 
thirty minutes. 

Cut potatoes (you can use sweet potatoes as well as regular potatoes) into rough 
squares; no need to peel them unless the skins are really dirty, but wash them first if you 
are leaving the skins on. Drop the potatoes in salted water and boil until they are soft 
when you poke them with a knife. Drain the pot and mash the potatoes. Add margarine 
if you have it or oil if you don't; moisten with soymilk or some of the cooking liquid from 
a stir-fry (Hquid from greens is too bitter for mashed potatoes). Add salt and pepper to 
taste; parsley and garhc are good too. Takes about thirty minutes, or more if you've got a 
lot of potatoes. 


Food Not Bombs 

A traveler kid had been hanging around town for a couple of weeks, coming to Food 
Not Bombs every Thursday to cook and to eat. He wrote poetry; he'd been active in a 
poetry slam in his hometown and had even won a couple of prizes. He was surprised 
there weren't any poetry slams in our town. We all talked about it in the kitchen while we 
were cooking, and someone said, "Why not have a Food Not Bombs poetry slam here?" 
We scheduled it for two weeks later and told the plan to everyone who came; the traveler 
made fliers and over the next two weeks we posted them and handed them out. 

When the day came, it looked as though the slam wasn't going to happen— it was a 
sunny afternoon, and people seemed happy to just lounge around on the grassy bank 

outside the church where we serve. The two tables set up by the church steps were filled 
with dishes of stir-fry and potatoes and salad and bread and pastries; people refilled 
their glasses with ice water from the big orange cooler. Finally, one of the volunteers 
who had come to cook said "Well ..." and went out onto the sidewalk and turned to 
face the group. Suddenly the lawn was not just a lawn: it was a little amphitheater and 
the sidewalk was the stage. She opened her pocket-sized notebook and read some of 
her poems. Everyone cheered. Then another volunteer stood up and recited a poem 
from memory. Everyone cheered again. Then a man who had come to eat stood up and 
cleared his throat and read a poem he had written for a woman with whom he had once 
been in love. After he had been applauded, another man— -someone who had never been 
to Food Not Bombs before, who hadn't come expecting poetry — stood up and recited a 
limerick. Passersby stopped and listened. People who had seen each other every Thurs- 
day for months began talking to each other for the first time. The poems went on; the 
eating went on. The late afternoon shadows grew longer. Finally, both the food and the 
poetry had run out; people folded up their raggedy bits of paper, closed their notebooks, 
and carried the dirty dishes back into the church. 

As poetry slams go ours was probably not much. As a moment when people took the 
opportunity to surprise themselves and each other, however, it was wonderful. Food Not 
Bombs is not a soup kitchen; it's not a family; it's not even a revolution. But when it 
works, when it is at its best. Food Not Bombs is a place where people can be their best 
selves to themselves and to others, where there is always room for surprise. 

You can carry out guerrilla plantings 
of fast-growing, indestructible weeds 
in public parks or around buildings 
that are unattended for a few weeks, 
to give nature a hand in revitalizing 
cities and suburbs. 

Food Not Bombs 


Anarchist Ice Cream Truck 

The Anarchist Ice Cream Truck is perfect for hot summer days when people are hang- 
ing out on front porches, riding bikes in the street, and playing in the local swimming 
pool or water park. Go around giving away free ice cream out of your homemade ice 

cream truck. 

Ingredients A decorated shopping cart 


Ice (dry ice works well and is fun 

to play with) 
Ice cream 
Ice cream cones 


Chocolate sauce 

A LOT OF PEOPLE — hiking, skateboarding, 
walking, ju^ing, stilt-walking, wearing 
colorful clothes, tellingjokes, interviewing 
people, taking pictures, video-recording for 
a documentary, helping to serve ice cream 

Preparation Ice cream: Having enough ice cream to pass out is possible with the help of free coupons 
for corporate ice cream brands. One might write to these companies telling a sob story 
about a bad ice-cream-eating experience, or whatever else it takes to get coupons for 
complementary pints of ice cream, preferably the vegan stuff made out of soybeans or 
rice. Then with the help of photocopiers . . . well, you know the rest — and if you make 
them right, the bar codes still even scan! Take all the coupons for ice cream you can 
produce and get as much ice cream as you can over the days before you roll out the 
Anarchist Ice Cream Truck. 

Food Not Bombs 

Ice cream truck: The Anarchist Ice Cream Truck can be a walking truck made from a 
shopping cart; alternatively, you could use a bike cart, especially if you plan to cover 

broad distances. You'll want to attract attention, so attach things to the side of the cart, 
use bright colors, and bring along a boombox with music everyone can sing along to. 

Sing, walk in the middle of the streets, meet your neighbors and be a part of your neigh- 
borhood, have a dance party in the middle of each intersection, get the media to cover 
your story, get video coverage and vocal recordings and cover your own story, start an 
ice cream fight, fly kites, bang on pots and pans, stop in local estabhshments and give 
employees a treat, eat lots and lots of ice cream! 


Food Not Bombs 




Different layers of clothing^ 
in case you need to change your 
appearance quickly 
Shoes comfortable for running 
Bicycle, skateboard, or other 
getaway vehicle 

Latex gloves — to keep your hands 

Spray paint, house paint, paint 

markers, paint rollers 

and trays, stencils, other 

decorating supplies 


Graffiti stands out among the countless methods of free expression (see Stenciling, 
Wheatpasting, Biliboard Improvement, Asphalt Mosaics, Stickering, and Banner Drops and 
Banner Hoists) for its simplicity, directness, and time-honored traditionahsm. You can 
be sure Jews put up anti- Roman graffiti in Gaza two millennia ago, just as Palestinians 
spray paint slogans there today. 

There are many different occasions for which this tactic is appropriate. You can sim- 
ply take a paint marker everywhere you go, adding little messages to mute surfaces. 
Sometimes, in a supportive crowd already engaging in illegal tactics {see Blocs, Black and 
Othenvise, pg. 127, and Marches and Parades, pg. 336), individuals can seize the opportu- 
nity to redecorate their surroundings on a grander scale; more frequently graffiti is put 
up by small groups acting under cover of darkness, applying hit-and-run tactics. 

If you are going to use the hit-and-run approach, your first task is to arrange a good dis- 
guise and cover story. Your presence should not ehcit any attention, let alone suspicion, 
no matter how busy or deserted the area you will be working in at the time you strike. In 

a neighborhood, you could go out walking a dog, or running in a sweat suit like a jogger; 
in a bar or university district, you could pose as an amorous, giddy heterosexual couple. 

When choosing targets, weigh the visibility and aptness of each location against the 
risk of apprehension and the swiftness with which the artwork wdll be erased. The best 
targets are in areas that are very busy during the day but practically deserted and un- 
guarded at night. Failing that, watch for a place that is concealed from the immediate 
view of patrolling authorities, while still being visible to others. One-way streets can be 
safer than two-way streets, as traffic can only be expected from one direction. It's often 
better to decorate a low-traffic area where your work will not be erased for months than 
it is to hit a busy area where it won't last a day. The best time to hit the latter sort of tar- 
get is right before a big event: decorate Main Street the night before a street carnival or 
protest, hit the mall the night before their grand opening. Consider the ways art haters 
will attempt to remove your work, and take this into account in choosing your location: 
for example, they will often use a sandblaster to grind paint off"brick, concrete, or stone, 
but they might hesitate before aiming it at the fancy plaque on a monument. 

Make use of existing features in the environment, whether stop signs (see Stickering, 
pg. 520) or billboards {see Billboard Improvement, pg. 114) or absurd corporate logos. If 
you want your additions to stop signs to last longer, paint them on in the same red as 
the background; your message will appear in car headlights at night, as your paint is 
not reflective, but will not otherwise attract attention. Some targets suggest themselves: 
corporate franchises, memorials to genocidal conquerors, nondescript buildings that 
secrefly host animal testing, condominiums being built to gentrify neighborhoods. Be 
ambitious: you could decorate the field of the football stadium before a televised game, 
or wow everybody by putting up animal liberation slogans inside cages at the zoo. At the 
same time, keep in mind that little graffiti messages throughout an area could create a 
more impressive and lasting effect than one huge masterpiece. 



As for hitting really impressive, death-defying sites like the tops of bridges or the 
sides of overpasses, don't assume that because a place is harder to reach your work wiE 
be sure to stay up longer. On the other hand, it might, and taking it down it will cost 
more trouble and money— and besides, freely offering installations that attest to true 
stories of courage and defiance is a pubHc service, if anything is. Climbing gear — and a 
great deal of practice with it — will help a lot for such endeavors; bring an equally expe- 
rienced partner 

Scout the area of your target or targets in advance. Learn the layout of streets, alleys, 
fields, fences, and cover such as bushes and woods. Plan approach and escape routes 
(see Evasion, pg. 234). Note the visibility of and firom your chosen sites, the presence of 
cameras or other surveillance measures, the frequency of foot traffic, automobiles, po- 
Hce, and other possible witnesses, and the proximity of police stations or other locations 
from which a response will be launched if you are sighted. Keep an eye out for emer- 
gency hiding places: dumpsters, ditches, construction sites, friends' houses, crowded 
bars or subway stations. 

You can work alone, but it's often easier and safer to work with a few trusted com- 
panions (see Affinity Croups, pg. 28). Pick roles according to your tastes and skills: one or 
two people can stand lookout, perhaps another could be a getaway driver, and, if you're 
hoping to put up a particularly large piece, you could divide action roles between two or 
more individuals. It's also a good idea for there to be someone at a phone number that 
people can call if they get arrested or lost (see Legai Support, pg. 329). 

Work out your slogans or illustrations ahead of time, so you don't risk drawing a 
blank at the last minute. Familiarize yourself with spray paint at home, so using it will 
come naturally in a high-stiess situation. There are different tips available as nozzles for 
spray paint cans, providing different degrees of paint flow; as you become more experi- 
enced, you can explore these and choose your favorite effects. Some recommend clip-on 

triggers, to make the spray paint easier to apply. Consider wearing a mask to protect 
yourself from the hazardous fiimes of the aerosol can, as well as from identification by 
your enemies. Test your paint cans before going out with them, and don't risk running 
out of paint in the middle of an important thought." 

You'll want to keep quiet in the field; this is one advantage of paint markers. If you are 
using spray paint, make sure to shake the cans in advance, and try to keep them warm if 
it's particularly cold out. If you need to shake your paint can in the middle of the action, 
roll the agitator ball gently in a circle at the bottom of the can. Work out a way to com- 
municate quietly and subtly with your partners; if you can't use words, consider coded 
gestures or animal calls. 

Don't take anything unnecessary with you that identifies you as a radical or vandal; 
if you are detained and searched, you should appear to be a law-abiding citizen. Make 
sure you keep paint off your hands, and your fingerprints off anything you might have to 
drop. If you feel you are in danger, get rid of everything incriminating; at the very least, 
toss away the tip from your spray paint can — if you do not have a way to apply the paint 
when you are arrested, that is one less piece of evidence to be used against you. 

Act swiftly. If you are painting more than one target, don't attract attention to yourself 
by rushing around, but don't linger in the area any longer than necessary, either. Take 
care of your targets in ascending order of conspicuousness — a dozen little stenciled im- 
ages on the sidewalk might not tip off the authorities that vandals are on the loose, but 
once "police everywhere justice nowhere" is scrawled thirty feet long across the wall 
of the courthouse, you'd better be on your way home. 

For particularly challenging missions in areas into which it is difficult to smuggle 
large quantities of paint and equipment, you can stash your gear nearby ahead of time. 
In many situations, you should consider finding a hidden place to suit up just off-site, 
so you won't have to leave your house looking the way you do when you are painting. 

"This brings to mind the hilarious 
video footage in which a Swedish 
activist climbs onto a roof during a 
demonstration and begins to spray 
paint antifascist graffiti. He runs out 
of paint before it is finished, however, 
and stands there, before hundreds of 
his compatriots and the cameras of 
various journalists, shaking his empty 
can in desperation, having just spray 
painted a swastika on the wall. 


If you are working with lookouts, it may be wise to have separate escape routes, and 
designated points for regrouping. After the action, keep clear of the area for a little 
while, keep your authorship to yourself (see Security Culture, pg. 461), and try not to 
make it obvious if you do eventually return to admire your work. 

Distance Painting and For painting from a short distance— for example, putting a slogan on a tall billboard 
Projectiles from the ground — attach a spray paint can to the end of a long stick and operate it by 
means of a lever {figure 10.2). Put a "spacer" extending from the business end of the ap- 
paratus, so you can keep the paint can a steady distance from your canvas; the spacer 
should slide smoothly across the surface. You can also use paint rollers on long poles. 

To decorate from a greater distance, fill a "super soaker" squirt gun {figure 10.^) with 
paint; precision is diflficult with this method, to say the least, but sometimes all you have 
to do to get your point across is make a mess. Better yet, find an old-fashioned pressurized 
fire extinguisher — the chrome kind wdth the flexible hose, used for spraying water (figure 
10.4). Make sure it's empty, then use a fiinnel to refiU it with a mixture of one part water to 
one part acryHc house paint. Make sure your mixture is not so thick that it clogs the spray- 
ing mechanism; if you're using salvaged or otherwise lumpy or dirty paint, filter it through 
pantyhose first. Pressurize the canister surreptitiously at a gas station, or with a bicycle 
pump. The fire extinguisher will either have a pressure gauge on it to indicate when it is 
sufficiently pressurized, or a plaque listing the maximum pressure in pounds per square 
inch. Using this, you can spray paint up to fifty feet; you could improve a billboard, or 
paint the visors of a fine of riot police, or detail an entire lot of suburban utility vehicles. Be 
sure to wash the extinguisher out thoroughly afterwards so you can use it again. Practice 
before using it in the field, so you'll know how much paint you've got to use. 
Graffiti If you need to do your painting with projectiles, you can fill Christmas tree ornaments 

262 with paint, or open up the bottoms of used light bulbs and do the same (figure 10.5). Both 

can be sealed with duct tape or candle wax, and carried in empty six- WJ- 
pack containers. Be sure not to get fingerprints on them — you should 
wear gloves while preparing any projectile. For maximum splatter, mix 
the paint in equal parts with paint thinner (for oil paints) or water 
(for acrylic paints). Think in advance about which color paint will best 
complement the color scheme of your target. To be sure a projectile 
will not bounce off the target and break on you, throw at an angle; 
this will also ensure that the paint splatters away from you. To make 
a paint projectile out of wax, take a balloon filled with air and dip it 
in melted wax; let it cool, then repeat the process about twenty times 
before extracting the balloon from the shell, filling it with paint, and 
sealing the hole wdth more wax. Much less than twenty dippings, and it 
may break too early; much more, and it might not break at all. 

You can also make paint bombs from balloons themselves. Use wa- 
ter balloons, which were designed to hold fluid: any other balloons may 
be too small or weak, and can burst when you least expect it. Carefully 
protect the area in which you will produce them, as it's easy to make a 
big mess; work with a partner. You need each balloon to have enough air in it that it 
will break against the target, and enough paint that it will leave a mark without being 
too heavy to throw. First, blow up the balloon to contain more air than you ultimately 
need, as some of the air will escape during the filling process. Next, using a two cycle 
fuel mixer or some other tool that can function as an enormous syringe, fill the balloon 
with the right amount of paint, supporting the bottom of the balloon as you do and be- 
ing careful not to let too much air out {figure 10.6}. When the balloon contains the right 
proportions of air and paint, pinch its mouth, pull out the filling tool, and tie off the end. 
Make sure there's no paint lefl: on you from the production process when you go to apply 



balloon paint bombs. Transport them in sealed plastic bags, and throw them like you 
would throw a football, so they roll off your fingers to spiral through the air. 

Finally, if the target you have in mind is small or doesn't need much paint, you can 
fire paint gun pellets from a slingshot. 

Decorating Glass You can find glass etching solution or cream at some arts and crafts stores, though it 
may be locked up behind the counter. It can be used to frost glass — but be careful, you 
do not want this stuff^to touch your skin! You can put the liquid form in a shoe polish 
applicator or similar device, and apply it through the sponge on the end to write a mes- 
sage or just make a smear across corporate windows you want replaced. It sure attracts 
less attention than a baseball bat! If you can't get that close, put it in a spray bottle. To 
apply it from an even greater distance, you'll need an eggshell or a light bulb — don't 
use a Christmas tree ornament, as they are so thin that the fluid eats through them. If 
you're using an eggshell, stick a hole in one end of the shell and drain it; fill it with the 
cream or fluid, and close the hole with electrical tape without wrapping the egg in it. If 
you're using a light bulb, unscrew the bottom of the bulb or pry a hole in it, fill it with 
the etching solution, and use electrical tape to seal the bottom before throwing. Make 
sure not to leave any fingerprints. Consider using this method to frost the windshields 
of certain vehicles and the glass screens of certain machines, as well as the plate glass 
of corporate storefronts. 

You can also wrap emery cloth around your finger to write quickly on glass or stain- 
less steel. 


Once you've been involved in graffiti long enough to get your bearings, consider gradu- Refining Your Medium 
ating from spray paint cans and prefabricated paint markers to making your own equip- 
ment and mixing your own colorants. The two most common media you can use for this 
are bucket paints and inks or dyes. The two types do not mix with each other. 

Bucket paint comes in a wide variety of colors; Rustoleum is one common brand. It is 
not as permanent as many inks, but it usually will not weather away quickly. Make sure 
you get oil- or "solvent" -based paint. You can't put paint in most markers, so try putting 
it in a shoe polish applicator or similar tool. If you want more drips, thin out the paint 
with mineral spirits. Do not use a thinner, such as xylene, that destroys plastic, if you 
plan to use a plastic applicator. 

Ink is known for staining harder than paint. In the United States, Marsh and Pilot are 
two well-known brands. Just about every ink is alcohol-based, as is leather dye. Ink gen- 
erally looks good on a wall, flows well through a marker, and is difficult to remove. By 
itself, leather dye doesn't look very impressive, and doesn't flow as well as ink, but you 
can mix ink and leather dye together to get stunning colors that are extremely diflicult 
to remove. Be careful when handling this mixture — it is as challenging to clean off" a 
surface in your home as it is in the street. To take things even farther, you can add brake 
fluid. Brake fluid is corrosive and eats through paint, just as etching solution does to 

glass, making for an even more permanent mark. Make sure you get DOT3 brake fluid. has already been painted 
Keep it off your hands, and don't add too much to your mixture. 

Try mbdng different proportions of different inks and leather dyes with varying amounts 
of brake fluid, comparing the results for staining power, flow, and consistency. You can 
try boiling them together and then using a thinner, as they may thicken when heated. You 
can also try adding brake fluid to bucket paint, and aluminum dust to make it shine. If 
someone else is using a paint recipe that interests you, which they refiase to divulge in full, craffit; 
get a sample and let it settle over time until it separates into its constituent parts. 265 

Instead of painting on a surface, 
you can achieve the same effect by 
applying paint stripper to one that 

Disguising Your Tools 

If you are practicing freedom of expression in an area especially singled out for repres- 
sion, it can be really inconvenient to have anything resembling a graffiti tool on your 
person. Here are tvi^o examples of v^^ays one can camouflage painting equipment as 
harmless household items. 


Chaffstick Container Marker 


Chap STICK container 

Candle and matches 

Felt chalkboard eraser 

An eyedropper — these come with many 
ink containers 

Instructions i. Clean the chapstick out of the container. 

2. Melt some wax into it from the candle, so the bottom is sealed and w^on't lealc any ink. 

3. Use the eyedropper to fill the container vidth your ink of choice. 

4. Rip a strip from the felt eraser. Cut off about 1/4-inch of the strip. Push it into the 
container, leaving enough space that you can fit the cap back on. 

5. Get the eyedropper back out and drip some ink onto the eraser nib until it becomes 
saturated. Use it to write graffiti. When the nib gets dry, rejuice it with the eyedropper 
and ink. 

VHS Cassette Paint Marker 



vhs tape with plastic sleeve 


x-acto knife or wire cutters 

Craft glue gun and glue sticks 


Duct tape 


Old sock or other filler 


First, pull off the piece that protects the exposed tape. This is where the chalkboard 
erasers will go. Next, unscrew the cassette casing and take everything out. Seal ofFthe 
interior with duct tape and epoxy so it won't leak: use the duct tape to span gaps, and fill 
them in with the epoxy. Don't count on the duct tape to seal anything by itself. Using the 
utility knife or wire cutters, cut all the plastic entrails out of the container. Once there's 
enough space for the filler and eraser nib to fit inside, line the seams of the casing with 
epoxy, then close it back up, sealing it shut. Now you have a completely sealed container 
for your ink. 

Cut up your filler and stuff it into the case. Its role is to soak up the ink: the less you 
put in, the drippier your marker will be. Three-quarters of a container worth of filler 
should work nicely. Now cut up the felt of the chalkboard eraser so it can fit into the 
space where the tape was, to be a writing nib. It will take one whole eraser and part of 
another to fill the space there tightly. Epoxy all the eraser pieces together, for greater nib 
durability, and then epoxy them into position. Make sure the epoxy makes a tight seal 
around the nib, so all your ink doesn't leak out when you try to write. 

It will take a lot of ink to fill this marker. Keep it in the original plastic case. 



You can make a paint roller into a portable printing press. Use a razor blade to remove 
the fuzz in a reverse image of what you want to print. Dunk it in paint and roll it along a 
surface: your word or design will appear over and over {figure lo.S). It might be possible 
to adapt this method to bicycle tires or a cover that could be affixed to them, to print 
while riding. 

You can use salt, lime, or other herbicides to write a big message in a green lawn. For 
an even more delayed effect, plant flower seeds in a pattern. 

To emphasize the socially responsible aspects of graffiti writing, vinrite on dirty, mil- 
dewed sidewalks by cleaning them. Carry a small squeeze bottle of bleach and a scrub 

Other Applications 


brush; draw or write with the bleach, and agitate the lines with the scrub brush. As you 
are "cleaning," you can try this in broad daylight. 

You can paint a backlit mural on the illuminated surface of a beverage machine, if you 
lightly sand it jfirst to remove the grafEti-proof coating. 

For do-it-yourself, environmentally friendly spray paint, thin out acrylic paint with 
pure grain alcohol and apply it with a spray bottle. 

In certain cases in which all you need to do to accomplish your objective is make a 
big mess — if a city is hosting a fascist rally or capitalist summit and you want to make 
this expensive for them, for example — it may be sufficient just to carry a few full cans of 
house paint to dump out everywhere or throw off a high place. Be careful not to spread 
it in such a way that it's hard for you or others you care about not to step in it — ^you 
wouldn't want to mark yourselves as the culprits! 

To make an oversize stamper, you can cut foam into the desired shape, mount it on 
a board, dip it in a paint tray, and press it to the surface of your choosing. This method 
could be used for stamping sidewalks through the false bottom of a box. 

To airbrush on the fly, carry a compressed air tank in a hip pack with the coiled air- 
brush hose running inside your sleeve to the airbrush in your hand; at the first sign 
of danger, release the airbrush so the tension of the coiled hose piiUs it inside your 


Cuerrilla Performances 




Perhaps you've heard of guerrilla theatre, in which vigilante thespians hit the streets Instructions 

to drive their message home. Guerrilla theatre is dangerous because it takes drama off 
the stage and deploys it in everyday life, where it has the power to unnerve and unmask 
in ways that cannot be shrugged off as mere art. A guerrilla performance is similar: a 
concert or party, which would normally take place in a carefully controlled, socially-des- 
ignated area, occurs instead in an environment that is totally unprepared for it. 

A guerrilla performance is essentially a Redoim the Streets event (pg. 421), with two 
distinguishing characteristics: first, there is a main act, and second, it may not be the 
streets that you are reclaiming. Set your objectives: is your event for passersby, or for a 
handpicked circle who will follow coded instructions to rendezvous at a secret location? 
Is it worth risking arrest? How wiU you deal with the police or owners, should they at- 
tempt to interfere? How will you protect equipment from them — can it be used from a 
vehicle that could be started up and driven away at the first sign of trouble, for example? 
Where are the escape routes, if there are any? Select your location carefully for the per- 
fect ratio of danger to potential. Subway stations, laundromats late at night, rooftops and 
basements, public parks and parking lots, empty warehouses, all of these have qualities 
to recommend them, and risks or shortcomings to bear in mind. 26$ 


GuerrUta Performances 

Some well-known recent applications of this tactic include underground raves, dance 
parties held in warehouses squatted for the night; the Boston "T" parties, in which peo- 
ple occupy tram cars and throw parties in them; and the Rage Against the Machine con- 
cert in front of the Democratic National Convention in summer of 2000, a permitted 
event that all the same ended in streetfighting with police. Set up a punk show on a boat 
to disrupt a riverside public event (like the Sex Pistols did), put on subversive puppet 
shows for the children of the bourgeoisie gathered at some wine and cheese event in 
the park, hold weekly games of Capture the Flag downtown — just do what it takes to get 
entertainment out of the cage and into spaces where it can be vital again! 

The fliers read, simply in huge letters, "USA IS A MONSTER 2:00 A.M." For months, 
J-- had been supposed to book a show for this noise band, and never got around to 
thinking about it until a week before the date he'd promised them, when he realized he 
was in trouble and started trying to come up wdth a solution. He hit upon Z— , the devil- 
may-care graveyard shi(f)t worker at the Handy Pantry, the all-night convenience store 
in our neighborhood. 

Z— is one of those beautiful lumpen-proletariat guys who laiows who his enemies 
are and gets jobs just to fuck with his employers. I heard that when he was tired of 
his last job (night shift at UPS), he took a package being shipped by a chewing gum 
company, set it dovm in front of a surveillance camera, opened it up, took out a piece of 
gum, and, looking straight into the camera, began chewing it. The next morning when 
the manager found the opened package still sitting there, he checked the tape and saw 
Z— staring him in the eye, smacking his gum. 

J- went to Z— and told him that he'd forgotten to book a show for a band that woidd be 
arriving on Saturday Z— drawled, "Well, I'm working every night this week," and it was 
arranged: USA Is a Monster would play at the Handy Pantry at 2 a.m. on Saturday night. 

Now, the Handy Pantry is not some out-of-the-way convenience store. It's in the mid- 
dle of the main drag by the college campus, a center of Greensboro night life (to the 
extent that there is such a thing), next to all the coffee shops and restaurants, and it 
shares a parking lot with Kinko's . . . and with the university police station. The police 
station is about two hundred feet away: you can see it clearly through the windows of the 
convenience store. So we weren't even talking about a risky proposition, we were look- 
ing certain catastrophe in the eyes and offering it a formal invitation. I think that's what 
appealed to us most about this idea: more than any of the Reclaim the Streets or Critical 
Mass actions of the previous year, more than the noise parades or any of the nocturnal 
breaking, entering, and exploring we'd done, this was something crazy enough that the 
outcome couldn't be foreseen or even imagined. We had to do it just to thrust ourselves 
out into that dangerous space where everything comes as a surprise. 

Word of the show spread long before J-- put up the fliers, and by the last night every 
mouth was whispering about it. J- and I went to a going-away party for M— , who was 
departing to spend the next month teaching art in another city, and then went to a show 
in nearby Winston- Salem, at the collective warehouse there, at which we were to meet 
USAIAM themselves. They showed up around midnight, just when we were starting to 
worry, and we went out to the parking lot for a briefing. 

They seemed like good kids, and they were trying as hard as we were to act like this 
was a normal thing for them — but, to our surprise, there were eight of them, including 
two drummers with fuU sets, and a keyboard player with crazy electronic equipment. 
It wasn't going to be easy to run their stuff out the back door when the pigs came — not 
that there was a back way out of the lot behind the 'Pantry, anyway. They followed us 
back to Greensboro in their van, and I spent the ride talking J-- out of his apprehen- 
sions: "This is our chance to put punk rock where it was never supposed to be, where 
it's still dangerous. This is payback for all the nights we've had to walk around watching 

^^^^^^^■K^dh^l^ Police Station M 

usaisaH fl 

Flier on Handy Pantry Window 

Cuerrilta Performances 


You can put on guerrilla theater 

performances in public areas, to 

get ideas across; utilize humor and 

shock, take advantage of props and 

points of reference provided by the 

environment, refuse to acknowledge 

that your educational presentation is 

an act. For example, next Christmas 

season, dress up as Santa Claus, 

and give away items in a department 

store, until the owners catch on^ 

think of the impression it will make 

on children, when the police force 

them to give back their gifts and lead 

Santa away in handcuffs! 

Guerrilla Performances 


this town do nothing, man — this is revenge for that flag they put on the moon!" When 
we arrived, he turned to me, reassured, and declared, "We're going to malce Greens- 
boro history, man," 

I agreed. For the sake of everyone in that dead-end town, there was no choice but to 
make Greensboro, as we'd all known and loathed it, history. 

There were about sixty people from widely varied backgrounds {punks, art students, 
homeless people, a middle-aged professor "interviewing" people with a microphone 
that wasn't plugged into anything) lined up on the curb as we loaded two drum sets, 
four amplifiers and speakers, a vocal amp and borrowed microphone, and assorted 
other instruments and equipment into the store. The drummers had forgotten their 
sticks, or lost them at earlier shows or something, so they ended up just beating on the 
drums with various junk foods (beef jerkies, soda cans and bottles, popsicles), grab- 
bing a new one whenever one substitute stick broke or shattered or splattered. The first 
notes of the sound check were so loud that I couldn't believe they were even going to 
get to play a minute. 

Everyone pushed in, packed into the aisles, and the noise began. The members of the 
band were leaping around, smashing things and falHng over each other like they might 
have at a normal house show, but here it was totally new and dangerous, visceral, and 
music that could have been standard somewhere else was suddenly the fiercest, most 
vehement thing any of us had ever heard. At a normal show the band are the ones taking 
the risk, but here everyone was at risk, just by standing there in the store — and not just 
because of the threat of the police, either. There's no way I can describe what it felt like 
to step out of reality as it had been and into that space, to fuse two separate parts of my 
life {the passion of punk rock, the lifelessness of convenience stores) that were never 
supposed to meet . . . everything was electrified, tense and intense, ten thousand years 
of culture turned on its head in an instant. 

Amazingly, the band finished one song, the members all switched instruments while 
the scream of feedback tore the air, and then they shot into another one, knocking 
against the shelving, smashing into the drink coolers, puUing the cardboard display 
posters over their heads and charging into people — all of us looking nervously back and 
forth between them and the police station out the window. A couple of civilians who had 
come up to buy cigarettes joined the crowd in total wonder. Some people were throwing 
junk food, candy, breaking things, wrecking the place; this was the most controversial 
topic afterwards, since the kids doing this were largely bourgeois children of the sub- 
urbs who had nothing at stake and weren't worried about Z— 's welfare or anything else. 
Others, and this was much more beautiful to me, realizing that we owned the place for 
a moment and they could do whatever they wanted, were picking up candies and other 
commodities, looking at them, and then just dropping them, realizing just how value- 
less they were at any price, especially compared with the lightning of what was actually 
happening. Z— , for his part, stood placidly in place behind the counter — for the only 
surveillance camera in the store was pointed there! The band switched instruments 
again in the middle of the song, banging out random notes and screaming nonsensi- 
cally — someone from the audience jumped behind one drum set, and started playing 
along as natural as could be — others joined in — and then looks of terror spread through 
the room, as we all saw the flashing lights of an arriving police car. 

And you know what? We got away with it. The pigs pulled up, looked in, and, seeing 
their favorite doughnut stop bursting with mayhem beyond anything in their job de- 
scription, drove away in presumable despair or denial — basically giving us the go-ahead 
to take the city over: for if we could do this so easily, then what next? "Should we get out 
of here?" shouted a band member, clutching a cymbal stand. "Naw, man, tibiey've just 
gone to get the Black Mariah," drawled Z— , "keep playing." The band played for another 
twenty minutes, until everyone was satisfied that we'd done what we came to do; the 

You can stage a surprise dance 
party in the lifeless office building 
or franchise of your choice: the 
dancers enter ore by one, their 
festive attire hidden beneath easily- 
removed disguises, until the last 
one strides in with a great big 
boom box and presses play. 

Guerrilla Performances 

You can put on public puppet shows 

for children that impart important 

information to their parents as well; 

you might be able to arrange to give 

educational presentations at local 

schools, too. 

Guerrilla Performances 

arrest wagons never did show up. Still spinning in a delirium of adrenaline, we hastily 
packed all the equipment out the back door and into the van, while the locals drifted 
slowly off into the night, exchanging grins of disbelief and dehght. For the nejrt weeks, 
whenever two of us who had been there passed on the street or in a library or coffee 
shop, we exchanged a knowing glance: we had seen that all the placid neighborhoods 
and strip malls, even the convenience stores, were a mere front, behind which a wild 
world lurked — just waiting for a chance to bust out. 

Health Care 

Hijacking Conwentiona! 
Health Care 

Countless texts have been written on various forms of radical health care, including free Instructions 

clinics, herbalism, needle exchanges, midwifery, feminist gynecology, and organizing 
street medic collectives for demonstrations. Here, we can only go over the broadest 
smattering of topics not often covered in those treatises, to give a humble indication of 
all there is to learn about health care outside the institutions. 

If you need immediate medical treatment from a hospital but you can't aflFord their exorbi- 
tant, extortionist fees, don't despair. Emergency rooms are required by law to treat anyone 
in need regardless of their ability to pay. If you don't want to deal with the hassle of bills 
and debt, give them a false name, a false address, and a false social seoirity number. 

Give a name that is familiar enough to you that you can respond to it instinctively 
and give it exactly the same way every time. Give an address that exists, so it will not 
be obvious that it is made up, but cannot be tied to you. Give a social security number 
that has the same first five digits as your own or that of a friend of a similar age, but 
different numbers for the last four — the first five digits designate the place and time 
you were born, so you don't want to give a number that doesn't represent a region or 
that indicates you should be a much different age than you are. It might also help to 
present yourself as homeless, jobless, and destitute, assuming your outward appear- 
ance gives the impression that this might in fact be the case; there may be drawbacks 
to this, too, however. 275 

Developing Your Own Health 
Care: Taoist Lymph Pump 

Health Care 


Unfortunately, this technique will not work for obtaining long-term therapy or treat- 
ment, but it will serve to get a broken bone set or a cut stitched; one of the crash test 
dummies who test-ran it in the field even had a ruptured appendix removed free of 
charge. Another option, which may help you obtain medication and other longer-term 
treatment, is to travel to a foreign country where health care is available at more reason- 
able rates. A different crash test dummy got a whole mouthful of dental work done in 
Mexico, and paid for his travel and living expenses, too, with less money than it would 
have cost to get the work done domestically 

Did you ever notice how much chemistry is involved in heaHng? More often than not, 
getting well means swallowing something. The chemical goes "down there" to do {or 
not do) its thing, while you do something else. In and of itself, herbal healing is not 
much different. While it may be your friend rather than some robot zombie doctor giv- 
ing the prescription, herbs alone are just another thing to swallow. Whatever your expe- 
rience with chemistry, it's worth diversifying your toolbox. There are many sophisticated 
and ancient schools of thought on healing and maintaining health through postures, 
movement, breathing, and massage. Any of these is worth a lifetime of study, but in 
the meantime, here's a simple technique for arousing the immune system that I have 
employed with great success. 

When you think "circulatory system," the heart and lungs come immediately to mind, 
but the body is composed of many circulatory systems. Your iromune system, for exam- 
ple, is a circulatory system, though it doesn't have a dedicated pump like the heart or dia- 
phragm — instead, the lymph nodes serve as pumps. Your lymph nodes are located around 
your joints— armpits, crotch, neck— and are pumped sympathetically when you move. Of- 
ten sickness accompanies or follows a period of limited movement. Whatever the reason 
you feel sick, one of the first things you do is stop moving as much: you stay at home all day. 

skip the show, spend a lot of time in bed. No doubt you should get rest. But to your regimen 
of chemistry and rest, add the following simple exercise. It will help activate and circulate 
your immune system without adding too much stress on a body that has its hands full. 

Stand upright, with lightness in your head and your shoulders relaxed. Don't forget 
to breathe — from your belly, not your chest. Maintain long, slow, deep inhalations and 
exhalations. Your legs should be active, not locked or hyper-extended. 

Now, wdth elbows straight, swing your arms forward and up, so that your hands 
clap together at around head level. Let your arms swdng back down past your hips, and 
straight up in the back. There's no need to clap in the back. This is a very relaxed action; 
allow your arms to be pendiilums and find their natural tempo. Do this for around one 
minute four or five times a day when you are sick, when you have been exposed, when 
you are traveling with a lot of people such as in a tour van or in an airplane that you did 
not build yourself. Let this be a starting point for researching and developing your own 
personal philosophy and practice of health care! 


Have you ever seen your own cervix? Has anyone else ever seen your cervix? For most 
people with a cervix the answer to the first question is "no" and the answer to the second 
is "yes." Regularly doing your own cervical exam is one way to begin to take control of 
your body and your health. You can learn what is normal for you throughout your cycle 
and not have to trust that what a doctor sees once a year is indicative of your ongoing 
health. In this way, you can challenge the physician's role as sole healthcare provider 
and healer, and acquire knowledge about yourself that has been the doctor's alone. Self- 
exams allow you to catch any irritations or problems before they become severe, and, if 
you do need to go to a physician, the familiarity self-exams give you with your body — in- 
side and out — ^makes you an informed patient, able to ask the right questions and de- 
mand full information about your condition and treatment. 

How to Perform Your 
Own Cervical Exam 

Health Care 

Ingredients Speculum — Any gynecologist should he able to give you 
a plastic speculum at no cost, or you can order them 
in hulk over the internet. Speculums come in three 
sizes; try out a medium, and if it feels too large, get a 
small. If you can't see all the way back to your cervix, 
get a large. The size of the speculum you need does not 
correspond to the size of the rest of your body. 


Desk lamp with flexible 

neck, or flashlight 
Lubricant or water (optional) 


Health Care 


Since you do them on your own, at your own pace, and in a comfortable, safe space, self- 
exams can be an important tool for survivors of incest or sexual abuse, people who do 
not have access to healthcare, and people who feel uncomfortable going to the doctor be- 
cause of their sexuality, body type, herstory, or gender identity. With a self-exam, you can 
decide to stop if you do not feel comfortable. You can become familiar with the process 
of a self-exam so that you will know what to expect and be more comfortable if a doctor 
does the exam. Self-exams also allow you to perform routine care on your own and not 
rely on doctors to treat simple problems like yeast infections or trichomonas. Cervical 
exams can be awkward to perform on yourself, though, so another good option, if you 
are comfortable with it, is for trusted friends to learn how to do them on each other. 

Before you do your own cervical exam, you may want to look at a book so that you 
know what to expect. There are books available that include full-color pictures of various 
vaginas and cervices in different stages of the menstrual cycle, and books that offer pic- 
tures of common infections and STDs so that you can identify them and treat yourself 
when appropriate. 

When you are ready to do your self-exam, find a comfortable, safe space where you will 
not be interrupted — most people prefer to do self-exams on their beds. Get into a com- 

fortable position: try leaning back on some pillows at about a 45 -degree angle, witii your 
knees up and open. Remember to have your mirror and desk lamp or flashlight within 
arm's reach. Try opening and locking your speculum in position a couple of times before 
actually inserting it, until you are comfortable with how it works. Insert the speculum by 
spreading the inner lips of your vagina with two fingers of one hand, holding the bills 
of the speculum tightly together with the thumb and index finger of the other hand, and 
guiding it into vaginal canal. You can use water-soluble lubricant or water to make inser- 
tion easier. You may want to insert the speculum sideways initially, then turn it with the 
handles still pinched together until the handles are facing up. Once the handles are facing 
up, open the bills and lock the speculum in position. Do this by sHding the short handle 
down and the long handle up — ^when you hear a click, the speculum is locked into place. 
This will stretch the vagina open and reveal the vaginal canal and cervix. With the specu- 
lum locked, you can adjust the placement of the mirror and your light source. It is best 
not to leave the speculum unattended: the muscles in your vagina can push the speculum 
out even while it is locked open, which can be very painfiil. Keep one hand on it if you can! 
If you are using a flexible-necked lamp, aim the light at your vaginal opening and use the 
mirror to see what it illuminates. If you only have a flashlight, hold it in your mouth and 
aim it at the mirror, which will reflect light into the speculum. With proper positioning of 
the mirror and light, you should be able to give yourself a thorough exam. 

What you can see: vaginal walls, vaginal secretions (if any), cervix (the neck of the 
uterus), OS (the opening of the cervix), and any irritations (e.g., yeast, trichomonas, bac- 
terial infections). Throughout your monthly cycle, you can see changes in the color, 
texture, and secretions of your cervix: these are all indications of whether or not you are 
fertile, and where you are in your cycle. Take a look at the outside of the vagina and the 
vaginal walls. Become familiar with what this part of your body looks like, and look for 
any irritations, bumps, or blemishes. Next, take a look at your cervix. The cervix may not 

You can put whole garlic cloves in 
and around genitals to help with 
yeast and bladder infections. 

You can use cloth rags or sea sponges 
instead of pads or tampons, or steal 
organic all-cotton tampons. 

Health Care 

You can ease menstrual cramps 

by applying hot water bottles, 

having orgasms, practicing yoga, 

stretching, exercising, anything that 

increases blood circulation to that 

region of your body. Alternatively, 

try drinking a combination of 

peppermint/chamomile tea. 

Health Care 

be immediately in view: if you can't see it, remove the speculum and try moving around, 
jumping up and down (really, this works!), or moving to a firmer surface. Your cervix 
may be directly in line with the speculum, or it may be off to one side if you have what is 
called a "tipped uterus." This is perfectly normal, as everyone's uterus is tipped in some 
way. Your cervix might be pink and smooth, have reddish blemishes, or even be rough 
and splotchy. Depending on where you are in your menstrual cycle, there may be fluid 
coming out of it (especially if you are ovulating) or it may be very dry. 

If you see blemishes or bumps that worry you, go to a gynecologist and ask her to look 
at them, and get a pap smear. Most likely, they are perfectly normal, and you will know 
for the fiiture that these spots are just part of your body. Because of the changes that 
your body xmdergoes throughout your monthly cycle, you may want to do a self-exam at 
the same time each month so you can spot irregularities. You may also want to do them 
at different times of the month, so you can watch the changes and become familiar with 
your body throughout its cycle. 

Self-exams can enable you to identify infections and STDs before you even feel them. 
Consult friends or a book to help you identify any problems. There are several books 
and 'zines that are good resources for identifying infections and treating yourself in safe 
and effective ways. Some of the infections you may be able to spot include: an infection 
(swelling) of the vulvovaginal glands; yeast infections, which will result in heavy, clumpy 
discharge; trichomonas, indicated by yellow or greenish secretion, foul odor, and heavy 
discharge on cervix; non-specific vaginitis, which causes heavy or nmny yellow or green- 
ish discharge from an overgrowth of bacteria, usually with a strong odor; active herpes 
sores; an infection of the cervical canal (bacteria from gonorrhea or another bacterial 
infection can enter the cervical canal and cause the cervix to become red and tender and 
produce a very heavy discharge); and cysts on the cervix, which can grow and shrink 
throughout the cycle, but generally do not hurt or cause problems. 

Doing a self-exam with a group of friends can be a great way to learn more about 
your bodies, share information, and be supported. You can observe and compare your 
own and your friends' vaginas, clitorises, and cervices. You can learn first hand about 
the incredible variations between people's bodies and the variations during the monthly 
cycle and different stages of sexual arousal. In comparing your bodies to illustrations in 
anatomy textbooks, you may notice that you and your friends have parts that are not in 
the books. This does not mean that anything is wrong with you: it just attests to the fact 
that the medical industry often tries to simplify our bodies, which are in fact very diverse 
and complex. 

A self-exam is a simple but empowering act — don't keep this information to yourself! 
Do a workshop on giving self-exams; create a space for doing a group self-exam or for 
people who have done self-exams on their own to discuss what they saw; show your 
cervix to your sexual partners (whether or not they have cervices themselves) or friends; 
take pictures of it; talk about your body; write a 'zine about it . . . For too long, our bod- 
ies have been represented and misrepresented by the medical industry. We have been 
made to feel disconnected from our bodies and to be passive about our health. For our 
liberation and our survival, we must take back this knowledge and releam ourselves. 

You can eat fresh ginger to ease 
indigestion. Sucking on ginger 
root can also help your vocal cords 
heal, if they're damaged — as can 
inhaling steam, and, of course, 
being silent for a while. 

Some communities include street medics, who provide health care and first aid to pro- 
testers; at demonstrations, such medics can often be identified by red crosses or other 
such insignias. If there are no such medics in your region and an action is coming up, 
it's important that some people take classes and be prepared to handle any emergencies 
that might arise. An affinity group undertaking a dangerous project should consider 
having a medic of its own, as well. 

The most fundamental rule for anybody considering medicine and health is do no 
harm. This, of course, is a pretty fundamental rule in all aspects of life. In terms of medi- 

Health Care 
and Resistance 

Health Care 

cal care, doing no harm means never trying anything you're not certain of, never being 
ashamed to admit that you can't help a person, and never hesitating to ask for help. Get 
as much training in as many aspects of medical care and general health as you can and 
alw^ays stay on top of your knowledge. It's pretty easy to forget a specific treatment, so 
revievt^ and practice. Always have your own health and the health of those around you 
foremost in your mind. 

Put together a first aid kit, equipped according to the materials you know how to use 
and the injuries that are likely in a given area or situation, and keep it with you, or in 
your vehicle, home, or communal space. Make sure to restock items you use and replace 
items when they become too old. 

Preparingfor Chemical 
Weapons Attacks 

Health Care 

If you expect to be attacked with chemical weapons, wear a waterproof outer layer with 
tight cuffs and collar, and synthetic fibers under it. Cotton, wool, fleece, and just about 
anything else fuzzy soak up chemicals. Cover as much skin as possible. Before the ac- 
tion, wash yourself and all your clothes in fragrance-free, non-oil-based soaps. This gets 
rid of dead skin and the oils on you and your clothing, and will help prevent chemical 
weapons from sticking and causing more pain. Don't use any oils on your skin: that 
includes perfumes, lotions, deodorants, and most sunscreens. These don't provide bar- 
riers; in fact, they'll make tear gas stick to you like glue. 

Don't shave for about a day in advance. Shaving opens your pores and makes chemi- 
cal weapons more effective; on the other hand, hair absorbs chemical weapons too— 
it's a fine line to walk. Take out any piercings you can, and put band-aids over the 
others so they don't get hit or pulled out. Don't wear tampons — they absorb chemical 
weapons, and if you go to jail and they're left in, you could get toxic shock. Do not wear 
contact lenses. Chemical weapons get trapped under them and could even melt them 
onto your eyes. 

If you wear a gas mask, choose one that won't obscure your vision too much, with 
shatterproof lenses and replaceable non-asbestos filters. Alternatively, you can breathe 
through a bandanna soaked in apple cider vinegar or lime juice — ^transport the bandan- 
na to the action in a sealed bag, and carry a lime or two vrith you to keep it fresh — and 
wear swimming goggles to protect your eyes. These can be obtained in prescription 
form for those who wear eyeglasses; when not wearing them over your eyes, keep them 
inside out on your forehead so they won't fog up. You can add a particle mask under- 
neath the bandanna for extra protection. All fancy gear vwU make you a police target, so 
try to keep it concealed. 

During chemical weapons attacks, you can blow your nose, rinse out your mouth, cough Popular Chemical Weapons 
and spit, but don't swallow or rub your eyes. If you are wearing contacts, try to remove and their Effects 
the lenses, or get someone to remove them for you whose fingers are clean and uncon- 

Pepper spray and mace are most often deployed in a foam or liquid spray from small 
hand-held containers, or from larger devices that resemble fire extinguishers. Police 
have been known to swab them directly into the eyes of protesters who were locked 
dowTi and unable to resist, presumably for the sole purpose of demonstrating them- 
selves to be truly despicable. You feel the pain immediately in your eyes or on your 
skin, wherever the substance contacts you. The pain peaks in fifteen minutes and then 
starts to fade. 

Tear gas is deployed in exploding canisters. It is an invisible substance, but police 
often mix it with a powder so it appears in an intimidating cloud. If the tear gas appears 
in such a cloud, you can watch which way it blows in the wind, and try to stay upwind. 
If you can't see it, you sure will be able to tell when it reaches you. Tear gas canisters are Health Care 
hot enough to burn you; do not touch them unless you are wearing protective material, 283 

Treatment and 

Health Care 

and not before they begin emitting gas, as they could explode and injure you. You won't 
necessarily experience the effects of tear gas immediately; it could hit you up to five sec- 
onds after contact. Once you get out of the cloud, you'll begin to feel better immediately, 
though it takes some time for your eyes to clear and the burning sensation to fade away 
completely The most common symptoms are tears and a running nose, to such an ex- 
tent that it can be impossible to see and difficult to breathe. 

As with many repressive tactics, the use of tear gas is made most effective by the fear 
it inspires. The first time tear gas hits you, when you are still unfamiliar with its effects, 
it may seem more overwhelming than it really is; once you have been breathing it for a 
couple of days, and you know exactly what to expect from it, you'll find that it is less debili- 
tating than it seemed. In crowds fleeing from chemical weapons attacks, call out, "Walk, 
don't run!," and assist those in need, so panic does not result in trampling injuries. 

If someone has been sprayed in the eyes and mouth, you can flush out her eyes with wa- 
ter. A bottle with a squirt cap is ideal, but a spray bottle will work. Always irrigate from 
the inside corner of the eye toward the outside, with her head tilted back and slightly to- 
ward the side being rinsed. The flush needs to get into her eye to help, so if the sprayed 
person is comfortable with it, you should try to open her eye for her. She most likely 
won't be able to open it herself, and opening her eye will cause her a temporary increase 
in pain, but it does help. This will work to rinse her mouth, too. During cold weather, do 
your best to keep yourself and the victim dry. 

Affected skin can also be cleaned with water. Some trained medics use mineral oil fol- 
lowed immediately by alcohol, but others insist this is too dangerous a treatment. To do 
this, thoroughly wet a pad or similar material with mineral oil or, in a pinch, vegetable 
oil. Carefully avoiding the eyes, rub the exposed skin with mineral oil. Quickly wet an- 
other pad with rubbing alcohol, and vigorously rub off the mineral oil. This procedure 

must be completed in its entirety with each victim so treated — ^leftover mineral oil can 
trap any remaining chemicals on the skin. 

If you have had any contact with chemical weapons, however superficial, assume 
that you are contaminated and carry traces of the chemicals with you wherever you go. 
Do not go into a safe zone or public place where you could contaminate anyone else. 
Shower in the coldest water possible to close your pores, and wash your clothes in the 
harshest nastiest detergent soap you can find. Sleep and drink water as much as pos- 
sible. Good foods to eat after a contamination include miso, whole grains, brown rice, 
and citrus fruits, all organic of course. If you can find somebody with herbal knowledge, 
take dandock, burdock, and netdes to purge your liver and system. 

Plastic handcuffs can cause long-term nerve damage. If you feel any pain, numbness, or In Case of Arrest 
tingling, demand immediately, and keep demanding, that they be loosened. Don't move 
around too much; that can cause plastic cuffs to tighten. When being cuffed, flex your 
muscles as much as possible to take up extra space inside the cuffs until they're on. 

If you have medical problems or are in jail with anyone who has an injury or needs 
medication, tell the police immediately, and keep reminding them. Use group pres- 
sure, and really keep at them. Days in jail with an untreated injury or without medica- 
tion can be fatal. 

If you are dependent on medication and are risking arrest, it is important that you 
have a note from a doctor explaining how important it is that you receive it. The note 
should state your name, your diagnosis, what would happen if the medication were 
interrupted, whether any substitutions at all can be accepted, and that you have to keep 
the medication on your person. Give copies of the note to the medical team, if you're at 
an event at which there is one, and to your legal representation, and keep one on you Health Care 
with your identification. Bring a few days' worth of medication and keep it in the origi- 285 

You can rub lavender oil into your 

temples to relieve tension and 

pounding headaches. 

You can boil water with whole 

rosemary in it and soak cuts or 

sores to prevent infection. 

In a pinch, you can use urine to 

help prevent or cure foot rot; 

going shoeless helps, too. 

nal container. If you absolutely do not want to give away your identity to the police, but 
still need medication if you are arrested, you could request a note from your doctor with 
your photo on it instead of your name, and cut your name off the label of the container 
in which your medication was issued. 

It may be possible to smuggle medication into jail. Place them in bags in your under- 
wear or in obscure pockets, or in bodily orifices if need be. 

When you get out of jail, talk about your experience before going to sleep. This sig- 
nificantly lessens the chance of post-traumatic stress. Eat easy-to-digest organic foods, 
such as whole grains and rice and cooked vegetables. 

Health Care 

Hijacking Events 



The whole entertainment industry, including the underground punk and hip hop Instructions 

scenes, is basically a distraction, or at best a pressure valve: whether we're staving off 
cravings for pleasure and togetherness until Thursday night at the bar, or channeling 
rage and ingenuity into folk songs instead of frontal attacks on the police state, these 
little opportunities for amusement and outlets for creativity keep us satisfied enough 
that we don't do anything crazy — like demand such excitement and self-determination 
in every moment of our lives. 

At least that's one version of the story. The other runs like this: coming together to 
create and celebrate, we develop a sense of what we're capable of, which we can draw 
upon in broader struggles to take back more of our lives. Either way, it's clearly not 
enough for subversive ideas and dance moves to remain in the clubs and basements 
forever. Could there be a way to liberate them from those confines, to hijack the brief 
moments of authentic living we're permitted and turn them upon the status quo that 
circumscribes them? 

Quite a lot of energy and expectation is invested in these moments; people who 
find their daily lives boring and meaningless look forward to concerts and parties for 2S7 

You can use a remote-controlled 
model airplane to sabotage a 
speech by a war hero or otherwise 
objectionable personage at an open- 
air graduation ceremony or similar 
event. Imagine the little aircraft, 
trailing a tiny banner, repeatedly 
flying at the speaker as he cowers 
behind the podium! 

Hijacking Events 

weeks in advance, approaching them with all the reverence and sense of limitless 
possibility that pagan religious festivals once occasioned. To the hardened revolution- 
ary, this can seem pathetic; but the excitement itself is authentic enough, and all that 
remains is for it to be re-directed back to a subversive, liberating engagement with the 
total social environment. 

This could mean inciting a crowd exiting a concert to a Reclaim the Streets action (pg. 
421), setting up an open mic circle around a campfire outside a predictably alienating 
music festival, even turning a post-playoflF victory celebration into a street riot in which 
rival sports fans unite to fight the police. Rather than struggle to create a radical situa- 
tion from scratch, one can take advantage of ejdsting opportunities, adding whatever el- 
ements are missing to set off the bombs everyday events conceal. Rebellious tendencies 
diverted from revolutionary possibilities into institutionalized rituals can be redirected 
back to them; the "real meaning" that punk rock, dance parties, picket lines, and action 
movies have had all along suddenly becomes clear to those who have enjoyed them, and 
the desires they inhibited through programs of carefully controlled indulgence are real- 
ized as these forms are superceded. 

Let's talk specifically about one of the more challenging examples of this, turning 
the end of a show into an unpermitted march. It's not easy to organize unpermitted 
marches — if you announce them publicly, the police will be there from the beginning, 
making everything difficult, and only those who think of themselves as proponents of 
direct action are likely to show up. Taking advantage of an existing crowd to offer the 
opportunity for an unpermitted march, on the other hand, offers not only the benefit of 
surprise, but also can mean that many who would not otherwise have joined in get the 
opportunity to have an empowering, exciting experience. The police can't watch every 
single show and public event for signs of "spontaneous" crowd activity; even if they 
could, it would only provoke more resistance. 

Rumors can be spread before the event that "something" will happen afterwards, 
to pique interest; make sure that no one cites specific individuals as the origins of the 
rumors. It helps a lot to have the band (or performers, speakers, etc.) in on it; they can 
announce that something will happen, or let others do so, or, best-case scenario, at the 
end of their performance, when they have everyone's attention and an atmosphere has 
been created, lead everyone out into the street. 

The moment when people leave the sanctioned performance area is the critical junc- 
ture: the group must develop momentum, morale, and cohesion before malaise or law 
enforcement can intervene. If a core group can be playing and distributing drums and 
other musical instruments, as well as masks and banners and so on, as people come 
out into the street, this will help get things going; as the materials are distributed, it 
v^U quickly become difficult to tell who the originators of the action were, protecting 
them and helping everyone present share a feeling of ownership of the situation. The 
march should leave as soon as most people have made their way out to join the crowd, 
and to make this quick it helps if people inside exit the venue en masse or at least in 
rapid succession. Have a route planned in advance, if possible, perhaps with a surprise 
somewhere along the way: a crowded district of thrilled onlookers who might join in, or 
a place where fireworks can be set off or fires set, or a target worthy of a little property 
destruction. Lay plans according the comfort level you anticipate in the participants — 
this should be a positive experience for them, especially the ones who would never have 
thought they'd do this. 

As soon as illegal activities commence, begin a mental countdown to the time the 
police can be expected to arrive. Chances are, if they are unprepared for the event, they'll 
have to hang back, at least for a while, but count on this at your own risk. Make sure 
you don't fail to think about where to disperse; if a march breaks up in a place where 
there are few escape routes, the police may take advantage of the opportunity to pick off 

You can turn absenteeism into a 
radical tactic: get together a group to 
volunteer individually for supporting 
roles at a corporate or political 
convention, and all call in sick at the 
last minute — or hire on as scabs 
during a worker strike at a company, 
and join the picket line — or, v/hen a 
new corporate franchise opens, apply 
for jobs there, so on their opening 
day you can accidentally lock the boss 
in the closet and leave. 

Hijacking Events 

stragglers, and if it comes back to its point of origin — or even if the police can determine 
what that was— they will harass people around their vehicles, or at least take license 
plates and perhaps follow cars. Make sure no one whose name the authorities can get 
their hands on could convincingly be held responsible for inciting a riot. 

There are many pitfalls to be avoided in this kind of action; a "re-routing" gone 
astray can end catastrophically. Those who initiate it must not trick the crowd, or seek 
to control it; their role is only to open a door to another situation, to highlight options 
that were already present. The re-routing must ultimately transpire as an informed, 
collective choice on the part of those involved; anything less is simply demagoguery, 
manipulation. It is critical that the action not endanger anyone who is unprepared — 
there can be risks involved, but they must be easy to recognize for what they are, and 
it must be up to each individual to choose whether to take them or not. At worst, those 
conscious of what they are doing can form a buffer zone between the police and the 
inexperienced or vulnerable, so if anyone gets into trouble it will be people who are 
prepared for it. It is also crucial that the hijackers not make enemies, nor disrespect 
or derail projects into which others have poured well-intentioned efforts. If people do 
notice the role a person plays in a re-routing, they should feel only gratitude, not fear 
or resentment — or, for that matter, inordinate admiration. The most accomplished 
re-routers act without attracting attention to themselves or assuming command over 
the situation. 


Hijacking Events 

The preceding day, the pigs had killed a man they were arresting on shoplifting charges, 
and that night a radical environmentalist band from a few years back was playing a re- 
union show. That meant there would be a lot of young people with anarchist leanings 
in one place, and, as the show was scheduled to end early, there would be a lot of undis- 
charged energy. We decided to take advantage of the opporturnty to put the heat on the 

police, to remind them that there was a whole city of people who were not going to sit 
idly by while they marauded and murdered with impunity. 

Some people worked on a statement to the public, and mass-produced it as a flier. 
Others collected buckets and sticks. Still others went out to an abandoned house, which 
still had a pile of firewood under it, and collected the firewood; later that day, that fire- 
wood would turn up, wrapped in plastic to keep it dry in the rain, concealed in an un- 
used, inconspicuous downtown doorway. 

The show was inordinately expensive, and only two bands were playing; the second 
was a marching band that most of us were familiar with from their performances at 
various demonstrations. As people began to arrive at the show (a steady stream of them 
making their way in the back door, as they felt the door price to be insufferable), we 
passed out our fliers describing the police killing and outlining our stance on the is- 
sue. A couple of us spoke with members of the marching band, telling them about the 
preceding day's events and asking if they would lead the audience out of the theater 
and into the street during their last song. They had done the very same thing at ear- 
lier shows, and readily agreed, making it clear however that they wanted to be leaving 
shortly thereafter. 

The headlining band played their rexmion set. They were as talented as ever, but 
somehow it felt like there was something missing, and the particularly macho energy 
in the male singer's stage presence made some of us uncomfortable. No matter, we 
figured— it's not the responsibility of others to do things the way we would if we were 
them, it's our own responsibihty to do those things ourselves. So as they played, buckets 
and drumsticks were stacked up outside, and wheatpaste brewed over camping stoves 
in the bathrooms. They finished, and the marching band appeared; to those of us who 
had already had our lives changed by songs about revolution and now were ready to live 
a little taste of it, it seemed like they would never begin their last number. Finally, they 

Hijacking Euents 

You can write harmony parts for 

songs by your favorite bands, and 

show up to their performances to play 

along with them, unannounced. 

Hijacking Events 

did, and when they passed through the doors of the venue with the audience hesitantly 
behind them, we were already in the street, banging our improvised plastic drums and 
heading off down a route that had been hastily charted a couple of hours in advance. 

At first the concertgoers dalHed around the front of the club— years of concertgoing 
had taught that the excitement ends when the show is over— but when a few of the 
rowdier ones joined us, the others followed, and a mass of hundreds swept into the 
street. A few of us walked in the front, doing our amateur best to beat our makeshift 
drums in time with the marching band behind; around them paraded the greater part of 
the former audience. The tentative remainder, not sure yet how to feel about what was 
happening, brought up the rear; they were soon joined by smaU groups of people who 
came out of the bars to investigate. We hadn't thought much in advance about scouts, 
an oversight we couldn't have gotten away with in a larger city, but all the same a few of 
us were on bicycles. It definitely helped that many of the fans of this band already had 
years of experience in street demonstrations and similar environments; for them, this 
was perhaps a welcome relief after a night in a club: the adrenaline of being out in the 
city, making things happen, reclaiming space with only bravado for a permit. As we pro- 
ceeded, a few litde elves ran around the periphery wheatpasting posters about the events 
of the previous day on walls, telephone booths, and electrical boxes, so there would be a 
clear explanation of this event the next morning. 

Soon, we reached a central intersection downtown; suddenly, there was a big heap 
of firewood in the middle of the street, and then— flames. From out of nowhere, street 
signs— "road closed," "under construction"— appeared, barricading the street. Masked 
figures with chains were spinning fire, people were clapping their hands and dancing, 
and the bars were emptying as others came out to see what was going on. Everyone who 
approached got a filer. The police, finally, started to show up— perhaps twelve cars in 
total, in two of the four streets; but there was open field on two sides that they lacked the 

numbers to block, and they had no buses for mass arrests, since this was an unexpected 
event. Besides, the last thing they needed in the midst of their current pubHc relations 
debacle was a lot of news about an anti-police demonstration turning into a riot — they 
were at a serious disadvantage here. Some of the people here had never been in such a 
situation, and were understandably nervous; but others had more experience in them 
than any of the police officers present. It seemed, were we possessed of the desire to 
do so, that we could hold this intersection to dance and sing around the fire for a good 
part of the night — and there was in fact a precedent for this possibility: such things had 
happened before in this town. 

But then, suddenly, the atmosphere changed. Someone grabbed a megaphone, and 
shouted, "Scatter! Disperse! Disappear on the four winds like the anarchists you are!" 
It was — did you see it coming? — the vocalist from the band playing the reunion, taking 
charge. Many of us looked up in surprise — our sixth senses, developed through years of 
gauging situations like this one, told us that there was nothing to fear yet, that this was 
not the time to retreat. But when a crowd takes over a street or carries off some similarly 
"impossible" action, all their strength comes from the sense that they can count on 
each other, all their confidence depends on the confidence of their companions. What 
a group, acting together, believes to be possible, becomes possible; what some believe 
impossible, becomes impossible, and thus no one can believe in it to make it otherwise. 
And so, hearing one prominent personality loudly doubting the possibility of holding 
the intersection any longer, many suddenly doubted it themselves, and made ready to 
leave, as if taking orders. 

Some of us who had more experience rebelled at this — it was ridiculous for us to leave 
now, when we sensed no great threat and had barely begun to make our point! This guy 
wasn't even from here, he had no local perspective, nor any right to make decisions for 
everyone — and to make things worse, his motives were questionable: "Stop drumming! 

Hijacking Events 

Do NOT take this back to the venue!" he added, still shouting into the megaphone. Still, 
the damage was done, and there was nothing to do but make our way out of the inter- 
section with the others— though one last group did pull a dumpster into the middle of 
intersection and set it on fire as a parting gift. That was lovely to see! 

All in all, the night was a success— though, sadly, too late to do any good for the man 
the police had murdered — and also an important lesson: we must be ever-vigilant, so 
self-appointed leaders cannot set the limits of our activities for us. Perhaps the bands 
themselves needed to leave at that point, but for that guy to assume that this meant 
the event was ofRcially over, or that in their absence the rest of us lacked the sense to 
keep ourselves out of jail, was really presumptuous. It may seem ironic that we, having 
deployed a secret plan of our own that was not exacdy "voted for" by all present at the 
concert, would be frustrated with him for taking it upon himself to seize the reins; but 
the critical difference is that we never gave any orders — we simply opened a window of 
possibility, leading with our own bodies and carrying out activities that left room for oth- 
ers to participate in whatever ways they felt comfortable. For a total, self-managed revo- 
lution to be possible, every individual must be versed enough in self-determination, and 
every group experienced enough in quick collective decision-making, that no one can 
usurp control. In the meantime, those of us who want to see things happen need to be 
ready to counter self appointed leaders and "peace police" by presenting other options 
and keeping them visible and viable at all times. Had we immediately counteracted his 
instructions by loudly emphasizing that we could all remain in the intersection if we so 
chose, it would have been more likely that whatever happened next would have been the 
result of reasoned individual decisions rather than mob psychology. 

Speaking of the tensions and occasional contradictions between individual decisions 

Hijacking Events ^^^ group decisions— there was a little controversy over the dumpster, which, it turned 

294 out, had been the dumpster used by a fair-trade coffee house that hosted liberal and 

sometimes radical meetings and performances. To my knowledge, no one ever found 
out if the coffee house was actually inconvenienced by the fire; the dumpster itself was 
seen in use on anolher street shortly thereafter, so I seriously doubt there were any con- 
sequences for the cafe. Such minor mishaps are inevitable, but it was humorous what 
an obvious excuse we'd provided liberals to concentrate their criticisms on our tactics 
rather than the offenses of the powers that be. Maybe next time someone should apply 
for a grant with which we can rent a dumpster of our own to set afire? 

To liven up a speaker's lecture or a 
musician's between-song banter, you 
can distribute secret instructions ahead 
of time that make use of predictable 
words and gestures as cues for strange 
audience behavior: e.g., "whenever he 
says 'welcome,' moan; whenever he 
asks a question, laugh uproariously; 
whenever he swears, applaud wildly." 
Arrange the cues so they will feed off 
each other, bringing the situation to an 
absurdist climax. 

Hijacking Events 


Asking an experienced hitchhiker how to thumb is Hke asking a iio-year-old woman 
how to hve long. She'll say something like, "I've drunk a fifth of gin every day since I was 
ten years old!" Some other iio-year-old wdll swear it's the companionship of cats. And 
that's as close as you'll get to the secret of living long and riding with strangers; there's a 
lot of magic and luck involved, and hence, a lot of superstition. What works for me may 
leave you, thumb high, frozen to death on the ramp. All the same, here are some tips; 
the magic, luck, and superstition parts are up to you. 

Ingredients Road 


One of the six million cars that 
are being driven with empty 
seats in them at this very 



Thick black marker and cardboard 

FOR making signs 

Tools for self-defense — knife, 
pepper spray, burning cigarette, 



Find a Cood Spot 


It's important to be visible, both to avoid getting hit and for exposure. You want to give 
every person driving by as much time as possible to decide whether or not they want 
to pick you up; a few hundred yards of clear visibiHty only provides a few seconds in 
the eyes of a moving driver. You also want to be in a place where a driver can easily and 
safely pull over. 

The most common interstate launch pad is the on-ramp, because of its slower traffic, 
wide shoulders, and status as a semi-legal hitchhiking zone. If you can, be somewhere 
where drivers paused at a light will have time to look you over. Hitchhiking on the inter- 
state is much more dangerous. It's also illegal. 

If you're in Madison, Wisconsin and you're headed to Homer, Alaska, you'll be travel- 
ing west. Get to the western side of Madison. The further out you are the more likely 
you are to get people who are going far, not just to another part of the city. If you are 
stuck in tovm sometimes you can take a local bus to get near the highway. Let the bus 
driver know what you're up to and you'll probably get good advice. Pick a spot with a lot 
of traffic of the kind you think might pick you up. 

Next to the road, you are face to face with every imaginable social prejudice, and every 
exception, too. How you want to play this is up to you, but keep in mind that the way 
you look, your entire presentation, is the only thing drivers have on which to base their 
decisions. Furthermore, in most scenarios the driver will have less than five seconds be- 
tween noticing you and their last opportunity to hit the brakes. It's probably a good idea 
to be the cleanest cut version of yourself you feel comfortable being, to keep the pool of 
potential rides at its widest. 

Eye contact is an important part of your presentation. Eyes communicate a lot. Look 
at drivers even when you can't see who is driving a car; they can probably see you. The 
energy you communicate in your expression, your bearing, and your attitude is crucial, 
far more important than your physical appearance. You should radiate friendly, non- 
threatening self-assurance; not only will this identify you as a safe, amiable traveling 
companion, it also will decrease the chance that predatory drivers, should there be any, 
will identify you as promising prey. 

Extend Your Arm and Point 
Your Thumb to the Sky 


Relax. My personal experience is that I don't get picked up until I've been out long 
enough to settle in and stop being anxious. If I've been out there long enough to get to 
the I-hate-everybody stage, I have to get to the laughing-to-myself stage in order to get 
picked up. 

Use a sign. This identifies you as a practical, experienced hitchhiker, as well as clari- 
fying your needs. For long trips, bring a fat marker for making new signs. People are 
going fast, so make the sign big, even comically so. People will also be doing amateur 
handwriting analysis, so don't use that cool insane-asylum handwriting you developed 
in high school: use bold letters, write clearly, and spell correctly. Your sign should say 
the name of a well-known place. If you are going to a small town, choose a city nearby. 
If you are going clear across the country, choose a major city a half day's drive away. If 
need be, you can clear this up with the driver later. If your destination is simply "away," 
put something interesting on your sign: "adventure," "overseas," "AD 2015." 

Always have your thumb out — it's the international signal for "I need a ride." Even if 
you have a sign, even if you have a twenty-foot-high flashing sign, stick out your thumb. 
The thumb shows initiative. Throughout history, the thumbs-up gesture has been used 
to express "yes," "life is good," and "let the poor guy Kve," all sentiments you want to 
persuade your driver to share. 

Make a Decision 


Tens, hundreds, maybe thousands of people have driven by, summarily rejecting you 
and your cause, so when someone finally pulls over you'll be inchned to be quick and 
gracious about hopping in. Slow it down a notch — this is a crucial point in your journey. 
Ask yourself: Is the driver drunk.? Why is this person picking me up? How many people 
are in the car.? Do I feel safe? Ask the driver, "Where are you headed?" It's a reasonable 
question. The answer will tell if the ride is practical. It will also tell you something about 
the driver and give you one more moment to make your decision. A kindly driver won't 

be annoyed by the small delay. If you don't feel safe, or if it's not a good ride, don't be 
afraid to decline. It's awkward, but, unlike a bad ride, it'll be over in a second. You can 
always explain that the driver isn't going far enough or close enough to your destination. 
When you get in, keep your bag within arm's reach, definitely not in the trunk. 

You're cruising down the highway, feeling the surge of confidence and sense of accom- The Ride 
plishment that accompanies triumphs like hitchhUdng and dumpstering. It never gets 
old! Now what? 

You have a job to do. You've joined the secret union of attention workers: bartenders, 
psychologists, waiters, and others whose job it is to listen. 

Make conversation with your drivers. More often than not, they pick you up for this, 
and you have a duty to leave a good impression on behalf of hitchhikers everywhere. It's 
not just a question of duty, though. Hitchhiking is one of the best ways to get perspectives 
from a broad range of human beings; it's also a reliable way to pick out the most interest- 
ing and generous people on a road — don't miss this chance to learn from them! 

Ask questions. Get ready to hear the life stories, crises, dilemmas. There are a lot of 
lonely people in the world; sometimes the best thing you can do to empower people is 
simply to listen to them. Occasionally, you will be encouraged to play personal storytell- 
er for a bored or sleepy driver — ^you hitchhike, so you must be a maniac with ridiculous 
stories, right? Practice your skills: mystery, adventure, intrigue. Of course, the driver 
doesn't need to know anytiiing more about you than you want to share. 

Make sure you are prepared for the elements. You don't want to get badly sunburned if Weather 
you have to stand by the road all afternoon, and holding up tJiat sign in a freezing wind 

can really be hard on your fingers. Your bags should be waterproof, in case the clouds Hitchhiking, 

burst and you can't get out from under them in time. Few drivers will want to pick up a 299 

hitchhiker who is literally dripping wet, but mildly bad weather may win you sympathy 
and a swift rescue. Hobo folklore tells that in Alaska, it's illegal not to pick up hitchhik- 
ers during the winter. 

Maps No matter how far you're going, a good map is well worth the space it takes to pack. If 
you don't want to pay for one, go to a tourist spot: hotels, airports, bus stations, tour- 
ist information booths, and rental car places all may provide free maps. In choosing a 
hitchhiking map, find one that shows every road you'll be traveling; a map that includes 
rest areas and gas stations is ideal. Your map will be important in your relationship with 
drivers; you'll frequently have to tell them where you want to be dropped off, and you'll 
want to choose wisely and explain it precisely. From time to time, you may even have to 
help a driver navigate. 

Truckers and CBs When truckers are helpful, they can be very helpful. They are also quite familiar with 
the cast of characters that live on the road. Truck stops bustle with drivers, prostitutes, 
wheel poHshers, and, of course, hitchhikers. At larger truck stops, you will find just as 
many drivers who are waiting until they are sober enough to drive again or until some 
warehouse opens as drivers who are actually going somewhere. Even if a driver isn't go- 
ing your way, he might be willing to make use of his CB radio to advertise your plight, 
asking around the lot if anyone is going your way. Alternatively, bring your own CB 
radio and do the same! In common trucker CB radio talk, "hand" is the expression for 
hitchhiker. It can help to call out individual truck names as they're driving off, asking 
them which way they're headed. If you sound like a trucker, or at least someone who 
knows what's going on, you're more likely to get a ride. Listen to people speaking over 
Hitchhiking the CB, and learn what you can of the vernacular. "How 'bout it, anybody out at this Pilot 
300 headed north? Can you give a hand a lift?" 

If you are working the truck stop route, you should know that "lot Uzard" is the term 
for prostitutes who hang out at truck stops. Don't get in a truck with anyone who de- 
scribes you that way or is looking for one. 

Hitchhiking with a bicyde limits the number of drivers who can pick you up; it can also Bicycles 
get you rides from people who might not pick up ordinary hitchhikers, but make an ex- 
ception for what appears to be a bicyclist in distress. A bicycle is certainly an invaluable 
tool when you are within a few miles of a truck stop or town, or trapped in the middle 
of one you want to leave. 

Travehng vidth a partner is always safer, and may not slow you down. Of course, if you Traveling Together 

are both large men with Manson beards and bleeding head wounds, you will have to 

wait a long time for a ride; on the other hand, some men may find that they are picked 

up more quickly when they hitchhike with a female partner. Whatever your team looks 

like, talk about your approach before you go, be understanding of each traveler's needs, 

and look out for each other. 

Talking through the process in advance is especially important if one partner is more 
experienced hitchhiking, or feels safer vidth strangers than the other, or benefits from 
social privileges that the other partner does not, as in the case of a man traveling with 
a woman or trans gendered person. Before you set out, establish together what your 
expectations of one another are, how you will handle trouble, and how you will commu- 
nicate your needs in the presence of others. During the trip, stay aware of your partner's 
comfort level, and always defer to the less comfortable person's judgment. This might 
mean declining a ride that you would accept if you were alone; it might mean that you 
do the talking or make the requests if the conversation takes an unpleasant turn, but it Hitchhiking 
could also mean not putting yourself in the role of protector unless you are invited to do 501 

so. Be aware that there may be vibes that your travehng partner is affected by that you 
don't notice. Never make someone feel fooHsh or cowardly for feeling unsafe. 

Self Defense Hitchhiking is considerably safer than it sounds in the lurid urban legends that our foes 
circulate to keep us afraid of one another; all the same, you may one day find yourself in 
a ride you don't want. This may not be clear immediately, so pay attention. Know your 
route, and keep track of where you are going. If the driver changes course, ask why Keep 
alert for conversational cues. A huge tip-off is frequent references to sex. It's best to put 
a stop to this immediately Change the subject, or casually mention some of your exotic 
diseases. If the driver is persistent, don't be afraid to insist, with whatever degree of 
politeness seems necessary, that you'd like to talk about something else. If you become 
uncomfortable with a ride for any reason, ask to be dropped off at the nearest opportu- 
nity It's rare that I hear of an encoimter that escalates to this, but it does happen. If a 
driver won't stop, consider making a threat, hopefully one you're able to enforce. "I don't 
care if we both die, but I will stab you to death if you don't pull over right now!" got my 
friend out of an uncomfortable situation unharmed once. 

Many people hitchhike with dogs for safety reasons; a dog can provide the same pro- 
tection a weapon would, and discourages predatory drivers from picking you up in the 
first place. If you pidl out a weapon, you had better be ready to use it, with everything 
that entails. Carrying a knife for defense means you must be physically, emotionally, and 
spiritually prepared to cut a person. If you aren't, pulling one out can only make things 
worse. Pepper spray is an alternative, but there are drawbacks to applying it while flying 
down the highway Standard pepper spray may not be powerful enough to stop an at- 
tacker; ask for "law enforcement formula" pepper spray at military surplus stores. 


If you don't feel comfortable standing by the road letting drivers choose you, you can 
choose them. Do some research beforehand, and bring a list of hostels along your route. 
Go there and strike up conversation with travelers; that way, you can form an impres- 
sion of a person before you ask for a ride. If the hostel scene doesn't sound right for your 
needs, think about other places you are likely to meet traveling people with whom you 
have som.ething in common besides a destination. 

You can also hang out at a travel plaza, rest stop, restaurant, or gas station and ap- 
proach drivers with whom you believe you would feel safe. Talk to each driver a bit 
before deciding whether to ask for a ride; this makes it easier for the driver to evaluate 
you, too. Using this method, you can end up with kindly drivers who would never have 
stopped to pick you up by the road. 

Bulletin boards are another recourse for travelers without a car. Universities often 
have physical ride boards with separate sections for those needing rides and those driv- 
ing. Online message boards can be usefiil, as well. 

Alternatives to the Thumb 

Some people hitchhike aroimd tiie world, hitting the highway to seek their fortunes. 
Myself, I'm not so adventurous; I split my life between two small cities, and I use hitch- 
hiking to make the commute between them. 

I've been doing this for a year and a half now, making the journey about twice a week. 
The average trip takes me two rides; in addition to advantageous departure points in 
the cities I call home, I've found a busy on-ramp in a town between them that serves 
as a good midpoint. When I'm picked up by a driver not going all the way, I ask to be 
dropped off there; I usually turn down offers from drivers going shorter distances, since 
there aren't any other points along the route as conducive to hitchhiking. Sun, rain, or 
snow, it never takes me more than three hours to travel the sixty miles of my commute, 
and I've made it in a third of that before. 



You can improve your chances of 

being picked up and treated well 

while hitchhiking, not to mention 

getting away with other things, by 

dressing in dark pants and a white 

shirt with a tie and perhaps a name 

tag — that is, as a young Mormon 

on a mission! Pick up some free 

Mormon bibles at your nearest 

tabernacle for authenticity, and if 

anyone asks serious questions, what 

better form of cultural terrorism than 

to spread a little fun misinformation? 


To date, I've been picked up by well over one hundred different drivers, and I'm 
happy to say that I've never had a single bad experience. I am a white male of small 
build, now thirty years old, and surely that slants the results; all the same, I think this 
record indicates that the line I get from every driver — "you can't hitchhike anymore, it's 
too dangerous" — is sheer mythology. The only people wdth whom I've had unpleasant 
encounters have been the police officers who have harassed me on a couple of occasions 
{"What law am I breaking, exactly, ma'am?" "Oh, I'll find something!"). I've learned 
that if I keep an eye out for them and pick up my bags and start walking away whenever 
one appears, they won't bother with me; apparently, it's only the brazenness of trying to 
circumvent capitalist economics in their presence that affronts them. 

I've started to get repeat customers, drivers who have given me rides before and now 
pick me up whenever they see me. If I made my commute at the same time every day, 
I'm sure this would happen more often. Drivers are glad to have company, and many 
clearly appreciate the opportunity to do a good deed; many of them have expressed 
gratitude that I choose to hitchhike instead of buying a car and creating more traflQc and 
pollution. Hitchhiking has helped me get to know more about the people and cultures 
of my region; once people learn that I'm from the area, many want to talk about local 
issues and history. I've learned a lot from these conversations, and it helps that I've been 
hving here a long time myself. 

In my experience, hitchhikers are most likely to be picked up by drivers from demo- 
graphics that resemble their own, so it makes sense to hitchhike at times and places that 
provide many such opportunities. All the same, I've received rides from everyone from 
an Indian professor of economics, who orated at length on the importance of mutual 
aid, to a teenage mother from Texas, who confided in me about her struggle to leave her 
abusive husband. One crippled Vietnam veteran explained to me that he picked me up 
because God told him to take me wherever I needed to go, and responded to my query 

about the bullet-hole-riddled targets in his van with a sermon that warmed my atheist 
heart: "God is angry with the Federal Government! God's not going to take it anymore!" A 
black man my age told me of the prison time he and his mother had done as a result of 
their efforts to provide for their family, and gave me precise details of when and where 
to find him if I ever needed a ride again. A professional hula-hoop dancer who picked 
me up went on to join me in organizing a social gathering. 

So it is that hitchhiking not only reliably gets me where I need to go on a regular 
basis, saving me hundreds if not thousands of dollars in the process, but also keeps 
the journey interesting, and connects me to others of all walks of life. My friends and 
I were brainstorming challenges for each other recently, and here's one I'll pass on to 
you: spend a year hitchhiking everywhere you need to go, and form a revolutionary 
organization composed of everyone who picks you up. You'll certainly have an easier 
time engaging people than you would if you were to spend the year driving, separated 
by metal boxes and furious with each other for congesting the highway! 




Going Undercover 


Everyone is undercover. It's just a matter of degree. Look around — just about everybody 
you see is in disguise, terrified of being unmasked as the complex human beings they 
are. Wall Street's corporate murderers, after all, don't wear their murder suits when they 
take a vacation, nor do they wear their vacation suits when they're certain they're alone, 
like shopHfters, stockbrokers wear certain things and act certain ways so they can move 
through a repressive social environment without arousing suspicion. Even in anarchist 
circles, many adopt certain conformist postures, though we'll save everyone the embar- 
rassment of listing them here. 

So everyone is an expert on acting; the distinction is that most are acting uncon- 
sciously, while the one who goes undercover does so deliberately to undermine the sys- 
tems of control that necessitate acting and xinconsciousness. If shoplifting a gallon of 
olive oil from a supermarket for your local Food Not Bombs has become old hat, you 
may be ready for more involved undercover work. Do you find yourself wishing that 
a passerby would take advantage of his squeaky-clean look to do some truly dastardly 
revolutionary deed? It's time to become that squeaky-clean passerby yourself. 

A demonstration of thousands outside an evil institution can be given teeth by one 
undercover agent who asks an embarrassing question at the news conference, two 
agents who drop a banner from atop the building, three who switch off the lights dur- 
ing the meeting, or four who mash pies in the faces of the directors whenever they get 
up to speak. There are all sorts of places and groups to infiltrate, and a wide variety of 
reasons to do so: to gather intelligence, to spread disinformation, to create disruption. 

There are also different degrees of infiltration, and different extents to which it can be 
taken. Long-term infiltrators, sometimes called "moles/' must be extra cautious, while 
short-term infiltrators can essentially bum their bridges after their job is done. 

Before attempting to infiltrate a group physically, learn as much as you can about it by 
means of the internet and libraries and asking around, being careful not to attract any 
attention to yourself in the process. It's amazing how much background a few internet 
searches can provide. 

All the same, there are cultural details the internet won't provide. Just as we identify 
people from our own communities through minute details in their behavior and dress, 
every other social group from Nazis to business executives has Its own codes of behavior 
and dress by which they recognize and assess each other. These details tend to be subtle: 
skinheads hint at their political views with the colors of their shoelaces, salesmen com- 
municate their status through the brand names of their watches. It's generally wiser 
not to attempt to camouflage yourself as a member of a social group whose intricate 
iconography you don't thoroughly understand; If you don't know which color sheet to 
wear to the Klan rally, present yourself as a sympathetic journalist who wants to learn 
more. Best-case scenario, you or a friend once legitimately belonged to the demographic 
you are trying to infiltrate; for example, if you are trying to infiltrate a organization of 
right-wing politicians, the best person for the job would be someone who was brought 
up In a family with right-wing viewpoints and became an anarchist only later in life. 
In that case, many key words and signifiers would already be familiar to the infiltrator. 
Similarly, if you were trying to infiltrate a biotechnology conference, a dreadlocked punk 
rocker would probably suffer immediate expulsion, but a young college student with a 
background in biology could speak the lingo and pass as someone seeking a job with a 
blotech company. 

Getting In 


You can swipe letterhead from 

employers, government agencies, and 

similar institutions upon which to 

compose letters of recommendation, 

vituperation, or surrealist poetry for 

other such agencies. 


To go undercover, you must dress and act in character. To the extent it is possible, 
dress as someone you could be comfortable being. If you are going undercover in a 
region unfamiliar to you, get your supplies and clothes there: dressed up and harmless 
in Boston looks nothing like dressed up and harmless in Texas. Going undercover can 
be expensive if it requires a new set of gear, especially if you are an impoverished revo- 
lutionary attempting to appear to be a respectable member of society. The suit, the car, 
the smell: these things are all important, and can be arranged given enough time and 
resources — but every civilian who goes undercover for work every day is trying to do so 
as cheaply as possible, just like you are, so it can be a challenge to afford the requisite 
commodities without making the standard compromises. Pawnshops and thrift stores 
often provide decent garb at affordable prices. Carry a prop: a clipboard for office envi- 
ronments, a wane glass for parties. 

Spend time learning your character. If possible, don't use a completely fabricated 
identity unless you have a very good one. Instead, borrow an existing identity, perhaps 
that of a friend who is comfortable with this. Watch movies about your subject, talk 
to people about it. Pretend you are the best actor in the world, and you will eventually 
become so. A good cover story for your behavior, into which you can slip comfortably, 
is absolutely vital. Think through possible questions you might be asked. Get in char- 
acter and try the character out in non-threatening situations — say, while hitchhiking. 
Remember, never volunteer any more information than necessary, but have possible 
stories ready so you're not caught tongue-tied by an embarrassing situation. 

All social groups are essentially networks of who knows who; from Congress to your 
local drug dealers, people operate in networks of trust. Once you've entered such a net- 
work, a whole horizon of new contacts opens before you. To get in, you need a "hook," 
some legitimate reason why you would be involved. If you're going into an office, your 
hook could be delivering a package; if you're gathering intelligence on a company, you 

could pretend to be a student writing a report about them. Drop names. You don't neces- 
sarily have to know the person whose name you drop — just make sure they're in a posi- 
tion of trust and respect within the network you're trying to infiltrate, and that, if you are 
lying, the person to whom you are lying can't easily determine this. Strike up conversa- 
tion, subtly dropping in references that identify you as an insider. Always try to plunge 
deeper with your comments and questions, in what appears to be innocent chatter. 

When you lie, there are telltale signs that many, particularly those well versed in in- Lying 
terrogation, can recognize: nervousness, motion of the eyes, reddening or touching 
of the face, tapping of the feet, a bit of sweat at the brow. The best lies, therefore, are 
not Hes at all, but half-truths. If you're undercover as a delivery man at the ofEice of a 
major corporation and the security guard asks you what you're doing snooping around 
someone's desk, don't run or make up some tall tale about how you were good friends 
vtith that person back in high school. Instead, try something actually true, such as "I 
didn't expect to see you here — oh, I must be in the vinrong office," then walk calmly off. 
After all, you are metaphysically in the wrong office, and you did not expect to see the 
security guard there. 

If he grabs your shoulder, you may want to proceed to the next level, the plausible lie. 
"I must have been given the wrong office number ... I'm sorry." The key to a plausible 
lie is that it explains away irregularities. It should be simple and succinct. If the web of 
lies you weave becomes too intricate, you vidll be more likely to tell lies that are implau- 
sible or that conflict with each other. 

If the security guard demands to know "Who gave you the office number?," remem- 
ber one of the golden rules of lying: be vague. "The guy up front," you explain. By being 
vague and ambiguous, you induce the person to whom you are lying to interpret the . n, .- 
lie in the way that makes the most sense according to the workings of the world as he soq 

knows it. With any luck, the guard will interpret your statement as a reference to some- 
one who legitimately gives out ofiice numbers, such as a receptionist or boss. 

If the clever guard suspects a ruse, he may ask for clarification. You should provide as 
little verifiable information as possible, while simidtaneously making the best claim to 
legitimacy you can. Any reference to authority is a good source of legitim.acy; God is the 
best one in certain circles, but He's a bit too far out there for everyday lying purposes. 

Never underestimate the power of sticking to your story. On the other hand, if the jig 
is finally up, it may make sense to surrender to the forces of the law without a struggle — 
and once you do so, you must stop speaking altogether except to state that you wish to 
speak to your attorney. If you're only gathering information, the law you actually broke 
is probably quite small; oflien, security guards vrill just kick you out of the building and 
tell you not to come back. Then again, if you can be tied to an act of hard-core property 
destruction that just took place, you'll want to put into action some of the tactics covered 
in the Evasion recipe on pg. 234. 

Complications If you're going undercover, you must appear to be normal come hell or high water — ^but 
when that becomes utterly impossible, you might as well try the opposite. If things 
are only slightly weird, people will tend to search for a logical explanation for events. 
If things are so strange that they are off the charts, people may do their best to ignore 
them^ — that's a standard response to cognitive dissonance, as psychology students learn. 
Accordingly, one should either be completely undercover, or, when one's cover is blown, 
go aU the way Once, while fleeing through the woods from riot police, a friend and I 
came to a road traveled by law-abiding civilians. At first, we pretended to be wholesome 
. r, .• young hitchhikers, and everyone smiled but passed us by. Soon, the police were closing 

J70 in, and our nervous behavior freaked out the one driver who nearly picked us up. Real- 

izing that our situation was too desperate for any pretext, we frantically flagged down 
an old couple and explained to them that we were anarchist fugitives from the nearby 

anti-globaHzation protest, who were being chased by the poHce as we spoke and needed 
a ride as far away as possible at this very moment. While at first stunned, they imme- 
diately let us in the car. Once inside, we normalized the situation by talking about the 
weather, and they dropped us off with a smile. 

Another good rule of thumb: quit while you're ahead. If you have reason to believe 
that the situation is about to go horribly av^rry, get out. Don't fear being abrupt— just do 
it. If you think you just need to cool off, to check on some data or re-establish your secu- 
rity, make a brief and reasonable excuse, such as going to the bathroom or on a family 
vacation, depending on the time frame you're working with; in the moment of calm that 
provides, you can figure out where you stand, and whether you dare go back. 

There are two types of people: those who have good intuitions, and those who do not. 
Through experience, ascertain which type you are, and rely accordingly on gut feelings 
or rational calculations. It is often useful to go undercover with at least one other person, 
so you can compare notes and balance out each other's fits of paranoia and delusions of 
invincibility. If you operate mainly by intuition, bring along a rational thinker, and vice 
versa. If you are working with a partner who is nervous or panicking under the stress, 
engage in small talk, tell a funny story, be relaxing to be around. 

Speaking of having a partner, nothing makes for a good cover story like being in a 
generic love-struck heterosexual couple. This pretext enables everyone to assume they 
already know what you're up to, not to mention why your palms are sweaty and you keep 
whispering in each other's ears. And just what are you two doing atop the courthouse, 
on this portentous night? "Oh, officer, I'm so sorry," you gush, cologne in the air and 
hpstick on your neck, "we just came up here to . . . admire the view!" 

You can wear thick, opaque 
pantyhose over tattoos to obscure 
them and your identity 





Counter-surveillance is the game of spying on spies. Any group that has valuable secrets 
has a stake in defending itself against infiltration. The amount of security depends on 
the type of organization: a supermarket might only have a security guard and a few 
cameras; a right wing hate group might have a group of bruisers to defend its turf, and 
probably makes a practice of keeping up with the websites of hostile organizations; the 
government has nearly infinite resources for counter-surveillance, and may well know a 
lot about you, whether or not they've yet had occasion to make use of that information. 
If federal agents think you have lots of guns and are preparing for armed struggle, they 
are likely to burn your house down with your children inside; if you are just causing 
minor disturbances by wheatpasting posters and Reclaiming the occasional Street, they 
probably won't care enough to track you down, although their surveillance and counter- 
insurgency measures can be shockingly arbitrary. When in doubt, be careful— consult 
the Security Culture recipe on pg. 461 for more specifics. 

There are things you can do to trick infiltrators into revealing themselves. Send out an 
announcement about a blatantly fabricated demonstration over a listserv, and take note 
of who shows up. Bait fascists: insult them, and learn what you can from their angry 
responses. Take circuitous routes when driving, so you can't be followed wdthout it be- 
ing obvious. Before trying something really sketchy, do something moderately sketchy 
to see if you get caught for it. Never look directly at someone you suspect of following 
you. If you know you are being observed and you do not wish to let on that you know, 
pick your nose, talk to yourself, do something harmless but embarrassing. 

Timing when to act on the information you glean from infiltration is also a fine art. Of- 
ten spy intelligence, like revenge, is best served cold — not right after you have garnered 
it, when it could give away that you were the one who did so. Hold on to information 
until the connection to you is implausible, until telltale data is cleared from surveillance 
videotapes and short-term memories. In some situations, if the intelligence is needed 

immediately or you feel you are in danger, it might make sense to broadcast whatever 
information you have to as many people as possible, obscuring the source from which 
it came. Otherwise, keep what you know a secret and use it only when needed. 

In addition to single-goal infiltration missions, it can be worthwhile to position yourself 
in a milieu in order to obtain intelligence over a long period of time. The continual prac- 
tice you get from being a long-term mole will keep your undercover abilities in top con- 
dition; however, as time passes and access to information increases, so do the chances 
of being caught, so weigh carefully how far it's worth going. Often, especially in the case 
of political groups, it is enough to join listservs and go to meetings; never neglect the 
small things, like the visit to the bar after the group you are monitoring finishes its more 
serious business. To build up trust, unassumingly do the jobs nobody else wants to do. 
If you are particularly ambitious and gutsy, you can even attempt to obtain a position of 
authority; with this, you can easily induct other members into the group. Think of the 
havoc you can wreak if you build up trust and responsibility within a group over a long 
period until the perfect moment arrives! 

At some point in your life you may have to go undercover and never emerge: this is 
called going underground, and we can't tell you anything about it except that it is emo- 
tionally taxing and rarely ends well. You may want to adopt temporarily the behavior 
appropriate to someone going underground, however, in order to carry out a project 
that you do not want linked to you, such as a direct action resulting in lots of financial 
damages and a likely investigation. In such a case, always use cash to pay for food, hotel 
rooms, and other expenses, so there will be no check or credit card trail. Don't use a 
gas card, either, or a personal phone card, or a cell phone registered to your name. Rent 
or borrow a car, if you don't want your vehicle's motions to be tracked. Obey the little 
laws: don't risk getting caught for speeding or jaywalking before or after robbing a bank. 

Deep Cover 




Move within faceless masses, or far from the madding crowd and the surveillance cam- 
eras that attend it — never in between. Give your credit cards and cell phone to a friend 
to make a misleading paper txail far away, if you're ready to back that alibi up under 
scrutiny. When you go undercover, you should be like Santa Glaus: you have a mission, 
you're never seen, and you're in and out with the cookies and soymilk before anyone 
knows what happened. 

While I'm not exactly the most organized of revolutionaries, I knew something had to 
be done when I got wind that a group of fascists were having their national conference 
just a few hours away The Anti- Racist Action email listserv to which I subscribe an- 
nounced that the Gouncil of Gonservative Gitizens was having their national meeting 
just down the road from my hometown. The Gouncil of Gonservative Gitizens was the 
aboveground political organ of the racist ultra-right wing, known for wining and dining 
senators and holding public anti-immigrant rallies. Historically, they were descended 
from the White Citizens' Councils that were set up to oppose integration and aid the 
Klan. This was an opportunity to make their work more difficult, but it came with a 
hitch: while the webpage to which the email had directed me announced what city the 
meeting was in, it also proclaimed, "Because of extremist Lefties, the exact location of 
our meeting will only be announced to members." "Lefiy" or not, I was one extremist 
who would not be put off. Clearly, I had to join the Council, and to do this I had only one 
month to transform myself from a black-clad scraggly anarchist into a passable good- 
ole-boy racist. 

Luckily I was bom and bred a Southerner. My family on one side was descended 
from farmers and cops, full of women named Bonnie — I even had an Uncle Buddy. I 
had spent my childhood going around to Civil War reenactments dressed as a miniature 
Confederate sohder, and worshipping at a back-to-the-roots apocalyptic church in which 

the United Nations were regarded as the Antichrist and the black heUcopters were spo- 
ken of more often than Jesus' love of all His little children. 1 had been fortunate enough 
to come of age in a multiracial neighborhood, which gave me the perspective to realize 
that some of my parent's viewpoints about race were unwholesome and uninformed. 
All the same, whenever I spent enough time wdth my older aunts and uncles, who were 
former tobacco farmers with Southern accents as thick as grits, I could not only talk the 
talk, but talk it with the proper accent! I may be a raging antifascist anarchist, but I'm 
also a Southerner by the Grace of . . . hm, let's not say God, but definitely genealogy. 
Anyway, I did what every self-respecting revolutionary would have done: I went home 
and hung out with my family for a few days. 

I spent an afternoon catching up with an old friend from my pre-radical high school 
days, who was working construction. It happened that he looked more or less like me. 
Despite my best attempts, he still had some ideas that I considered mildly racist — "I 
don't mind Mexicans, but there's so many of them coming over the border it makes 
it tough for me" — but even mildly racist people often bear a deep and abiding hatred 
of fascist groups like the Klan. When I confided to him that 1 was trying to infiltrate a 
group of neo-Nazis and Klan members, he was down, to play a supporting role. He was 
too busy at work to take time off to help me infiltrate personally, so I asked if I could use 
his name, and possibly his address or I.D. if it was absolutely necessary. He agreed, on 
the condition that I promise not to bring too much heat down on him. Presto, an instant 
new identity: I was now "Bob Noble" (names changed to protect the innocent) . A simple, 
unpretentious name, and not even imaginary. Remember, your enemies vnll often do a 
background check on you, or at least see if you exist in the phone book. 

The Council of Conservative Citizens had a national contact number listed on their 
website. Since there was still a month to go, a call to it by a complete stranger would not infiltration 
be a dead giveaway that antiracists were trying to infiltrate their conference, so I gave 315 

them a ring. After a few rings, an answering machine picked up and asked for my name 
and phone number. I was not interested in leaving my friend's contact information 
on the answering machine of hatemongers, and as I was calling from a payphone at a 
deserted gas station, Caller I.D. could have blovm my cover quite easily. So I started out 
vrith a grumbly drawl: "Well, I've just been reading your webpage for a long time and I 
agree with your views, especially those about states' rights and freedom of speech, and 
I was wondering . . ." 

As if by magic, the phone was picked up on the other end, and a not-so- Southern 
voice addressed me: "Oh, sorry about that, we screen our calls. You know, there's a lot of 
wackos out there." I had used a key phrase that the mysterious racist on the other end 
of the line had recognized, one that many born-and-bred liberals would never know to 
attach much significance to: "states' rights." This is the idea that states and other local 
authorities should have more control than the federal government, which according to 
standard racist mythology is infested with Jews, homosexuals, liberals, and even black 
people. According to neo-Confederates, "states' rights" — not slavery — is the reason the 
South seceded from the Union, and as this is barely mentioned in history classes or left- 
ist periodicals, only a true Southerner would use that phrase in everyday conversation. 
Also, freedom of speech, in particular the freedom to be a racist, sexist, and generally 
vile spewer of right-wing madness, is of great concern to this crowd. My use of these key 
words led to almost immediate acceptance. 

"I know, I know, they don't respect a man's God- given right to speak his mind." 

"So, what did you want?" 

Now, here was a critical moment. I could have asked directly for the location of the 

conference. That would have been far too obvious. It was wdser to put off demanding the 

Infiltration ^ctual information I wanted and just ask for a local contact, who might be less security- 

316 conscious. "Can I get a local phone number of someone to call to talk about how to take 

a more active role? I've been reading too long, and after what those terrorists did to us 
on September ii*^, it's time for Americans like me to take a stand." 

Within a few seconds I had the local phone numbers of Council of Conservative Citi- 
zens members in my area, and the name of the high-ranking Council member who had 
talked to me on the phone. After a polite goodbye, I made another phone call to my local 
contact. He wasn't home. So I called another, and another. 1 kept getting answering ma- 
chines; racists love to screen their calls. The next time an answering machine engaged, 
I finally spoke: "Well, I just talked to Mr. [name of high-ranking racist previously men- 
tioned], and he gave me your number. I've been reading y'all's webpages, and I really 
enjoy the Alamance Independent ..." 

Bang. The receiver on the other end picked up. The name-dropping, combined with 
a reference to an obscure right-wing paper available online, had got me the next contact 
on my hit list. Now I was part of the right-wing scene! 

"How ya doing.^ Sorry about that, I just sometimes am slow picking up the phone ..." 

Sure. Jeez, I wish anarchists had this measure of security culture on picking up 
phones. Given that, the ball was now in my playing field. 

"Ah, I'm just wondering about how to get involved. I mean, I've never been much 
on getting involved in politics, since I'm not a fancy type of man and always feel a bit 
confused about things myself." 

"That's how it is in these confusing times." 

"But, I dunno ... I just don't feel right about the way this country is going. Why, 
people are even insulting President Bush, and after what happened in New York, why, 
we're under attack and these damn liberals keep trying to stop our good President from 
doing his job. And it seems like even our leaders are forgetting about states' rights." 

"Have you read the latest article on the web about how the liberals with their left-wing inmrathn 
agenda are demonizing us?" 317 

"Sure ... I always read your website. That's why I'm calling you. I've never . . . well, 
I was in the Sons of the Confederaq^, and I did do some reenacting for a few years back 
in [name of state even more southern than the one I live in], you know at Gettysburg, 
Bentonville, Spotsylvania . . . yeah, those were good old times, but it was just kids' stuff. 
I want to get serious about defending this country." 

"You know, one of the biggest problems we face is immigration . . ." My host began 
an impassioned tirade on how immigrants were ruining our nation. 

"Well, I'm not racist, I've never considered myself a racist man." It's always good when 
infiltrating a group to come off as an honest, multifaceted, and even moderate human be- 
ing, instead of some caricature of a white-hooded Klansman. "But I do know that if these 
people are here illegally, that's wrong, and I'm not in their country taking their jobs or noth- 
ing. I mean, compared to blacks, these immigrants are growing even faster . . . there's no 
reason they shouldn't have to go through the same procedures as the rest of us citizens." 

Our conversation went on and on. After referencing obscure historical trivia ("You 
know, the first slave ship landed in the North, in Marblehead, Massachusetts") and con- 
fessing to bizarre fetishes ("I've always wanted a red shirt like our good Confederate 
general A. P. Hill"), I had so thoroughly won the favor of this local fascist that he invited 
me over to meet him at a bar for a few beers. I could almost see him salivating as he tried 
to turn my "honest" confusions to a more racist and fascist stance. Being a "quiet man," 
I refused his offer of beer for the time being, and asked him if there was some C. of C.C. 
event I could meet him at. I was hoping I wouldn't personally be required there, since 
as a fairly well-known anarchist, it would be riskier for me than it might be for someone 
else. Also, since this was an opportunity to slip in a long-term mole, I made sure to give 
him no exact physical description of myself 
Infiltration "Well, it's a bit of a drive, but there's this national conference coming up. I think you 

318 would really enjoy it, and we can hang out there." 

"Can I just get the thing off your website?" 

"Oh, no. We gotta hide it from all those commies. But I'll tell you. It's at . . ." 

Bingo. Mission accomplished. Never ask them for the information directly if you can 
avoid it. Have them give it to you out of their own free will. It will be a lot less suspicious. 

A few days later, I sent out emails to nearby Anti- Racist Action chapters announc- 
ing this location and calling for a demonstration outside. I'd waited a few days so that 
the fascists, if they were monitoring our listserv, wouldn't necessarily connect the A.R.A. 
announcement to the strange new guy who'd called them up. As wiser and more experi- 
enced antiracist activists started planning the demonstration, I decided we could do better 
than demonstrate outside. We should not only be on the outside, we should be inside. 

I sent a few emails and hung up fliers around tovra announcing the formation of a 
new chapter of Anti- Racist Action. Right before the meeting, a strange older white guy 
showed up. I got somewhat scary vibrations from him. He asked if he was at the right 
meeting location. Trusting my instincts, I told him I didn't know and that the bookstore 
the meeting was to be at was about to close, so he left — and just in the nick of time. Soon 
afterwards, about half a dozen people showed up, an interesting mixture of young white 
punks, black students, and one older white Southern woman. Although I was also a bit 
hesitant about this woman, who fit none of my cultural stereotypes of antiracist activ- 
ists, I followed my instincts again, and decided to take the risk. It turned out she was 
a graduate student, writing her Ph.D. thesis on the radical right and antiracism in our 
state. I told everyone about the counter-demonstration, and after she recommended a 
few good books about the history of the Council of Conservative Citizens and the Klan 
to me, I decided to visit her in her ofEice. 

After some chit-chat, I popped the question. While we were outside demonstrating, 
would she mind dressing up and going inside the conference as our undercover spy, inmration 
complete with camera and audio recorder? She was thrilled. After years of studying the 319 

detrimental effects of racism in society, she could actually strike back. While the young 
kids were out there fighting or at least intimidating the racists, she could sneak in and 
do the more subtle but necessary intelligence gathering: she could get the names, faces, 
and personal details of every would-be white warrior there. All of her attributes — age, 
sex, harmless appearance — ^would be advantages in this situation, and her encyclopedic 
knowledge of the far right would make her nearly undetectable as an antiracist spy. Her 
cover story would be that she was the wife of the character I had played during my ear- 
lier conversations. Later that day, she called up my previous local Council of Conserva- 
tive Citizens contact and registered for the conference. 

The day of the conference, we all met up in a parking lot before heading off for our 
separate tasks. Our undercover agent was dressed as the very picture of the genteel 
Southern woman, complete with broad-rimmed hat and a little umbrella with floral pat- 
terns. She took all the surveillance equipment, and we drove to the event separately. She 
arrived earlier than us, in order to disassociate herself from the activities outside. 

When we got to the location, a remarkably nondescript beige building beside a high- 
way, I shuddered to think that a hotbed of white supremacy could be hidden behind 
such a bland exterior. In the parking lot, the race war was already beginning. A few older 
white men, with the help of police ofRcers, were holding off a small horde of antiracist 
activists. Both sides were throwing insults, with the protesters being called things as 
dated as "race mongrels" and "communists," and flinging equally vindictive vitupera- 
tion back in return. The one thing that reaEy seemed to terrify the racists was when one 
A.R.A. member took out his video camera and started getting everyone's hcense plate 

As they screamed at the "dirty Jew," he laughed and continued to videotape them, dar- 

Ififltration ^^S ^^^"^ ^° ^*^P ^ ^^^ closer to prove their "racial superiority." Another antiracist activist 

320 told the white homophobes that all their rude talk was exciting him, and he had always 

wanted to make out with a real honest to life Nazi; they seemed so revolted by this pros- 
pect a few actually fled. The ruckus was loud and went on for several hours, until finally 
the conference dragged to its end and large numbers of racists started leaving, sneaking 
by our video camera into the parking lot. 

Little did they suspect the spy within their ranks. At our next meeting, she presented 
all the information she had managed to smuggle out of the conference. She had gotten 
inside without anyone blinking an eye, and audiotaped all the workshops, which ranged 
from a biblical case against racial mixing to a denial that the Holocaust ever happened. 
She had taken pictures of the various leaders of the conference, including not only 
Council members but also various Klansmen and neo-Nazis. She had approached many 
of them and obtained personal contact information including phone numbers and both 
email and street addresses. She had collected armloads of their literature and even a few 
magazine subscriptions. As we reviewed the photographs and hours of video and audio 
footage, making meticulous notes and working out who was friends with whom, it be- 
came apparent that we had indeed established the identities of most of the people there 
and had valuable leads on the new campaigns of the extreme right. As we arranged our 
files to be delivered to the Anti-Racist Action headquarters, we congratulated ourselves 
on a job well done. Who knows, maybe next time I will meet the Council of Conservative 
Citizens at a bar, after all— and bring along all my friends for a barroom brawl they'll 
never forget! 





Inflatable Bombs You Can Blow Up Again and Again, or, 
Civic Angioplasty for Heartbroken Towns 

Angioplasty: A medical procedure for treatment of a heart attack. A tube is fed intravenously 
into a blocked artery. A tiny balloon at the end of the tube is inflated to open the artery. When 
the balloon is removed, blood can flow freely. 

Civic Angioplasty: A treatment for urban ennui. A space, empty of desire or creativity, is 
suddenly filled with these and more. The space is just as suddenly emptied, leaving a (more) 
conspicuous absence, a kind of newness, a sense ofpossibility. 

Plastic painters' tarp — This is available at any hardware store. You need a solid film 
material, not the woven variety with grommets for tying down. RoUs of plastic should 
indicate the weight (i.e. 2 mil, 4 mil, 6 mil) on the package. 2 mil is lightest and most 
compact, 4 mil is bulkier but more durable. You should never go heavier than 4 mil, 
unless you want your inflatable to be able to accommodate people, in which case you 
can use 6 mil material for the floor. Plastic taips vary in size; we suggest acquiring 
the widest rolls possible (20 'x 200' is good). 

Clear 2" packing tape — Don't go budget on this, get the best name brand stuff. Start 
with around 4 rolls. Avoid anything that is advertised as "Easy Tear"; if you are 
making a masterpiece, look for tape advertised as "long-lasting" or "U.V. -resistant." 

A BOX FAN — Any 2-speed box fan will do the job. You're not going to need an industrial 
fan to inflate a huge piece. A desktop fan can inflate a 50' sculpture — the only 
requirement is constant airflow. The advantage of using a bigger fan is faster inflation 
time. If time is of the essence, get an industrial fan. 

A LARGE, CLEAN, FLAT SPACE, PREFERABLY INSIDE This is the mOSt difficult thing tO 

come by. It is helpful if one of your collaborators is connected with a school, because 
a gym or auditorium stage is ideal. 
A PATTERN — Among the most readily available patterns are stuffed animals. Every orifice 
of the world explodes with unwanted stuffed animals, so acquiring one shouldn't be 
a problem. You can create your ovm pattern, but this requires extra skills. If you go 
this route, make a paper model first, and throughout the remainder of this recipe 
substitute the panels of the model for the parts of the stuffed animal. 

Tape measure 
Permanent marker 


Utility knives, X-acto knives, or razor blades 

For our demonstration we vn\l be using a teddy bear because of its availability; there are 
plenty of simpler shapes to make, for which all these instructions also apply. 

Begin by making a drawing of your teddy bear from the front and from the back. It 
doesn't have to look good; you just need it for reference after you've cut up the bear. 

Measure the length, vridth, and height of the stuffed animal. Note these measure- 
ments on your dravidng. 

Carefully take apart and label each panel (e.g. right leg, left front torso). Indicate on 
your drawing where each panel goes {figure 12.1). Do not skip this step — when all your 
pieces are cut apart, it will be very hard to tell a right leg from a left front torso. 





■/ -4— 

A.- — I — 


"'■. ^ 















If you have not already done this, trim each panel along the seam Hne where it used 
to be sewn together. The shape of the piece of fabric may be quite different from the 
shape outlined by the seam lines. 

On graph paper, trace each panel {figure 12.2). These tracings will serve as your blue- 
print when you lay the shapes out on the plastic. 

Now decide how large you want to make your inflatable, and work out the ratio 
between the length of your small teddy bear and the length that you want your inflat- 
able. For example, the teddy bear we used was about eight inches long, so to enlarge 
it to 40 feet we made each square inch of our blueprint grid equal to five square 
feet of plastic. 

Unroll and unfold your plastic; if you want to be especially conscientious, you can 
make a grid of one-foot marks along all four sides of your floor so that you can easily 
align the imcut plastic. Make sure the grid you lay out is square (90 degrees). 

Armed with your blueprint, permanent marker, and tape measure, transfer 
your small plans onto the plastic {figure 12. j). With care you should end up with a 
very close (scaled up) duphcation of the shapes on your graph paper. 

Cut out the pieces of plastic and label them as you go so you can remember how 
they fit together and what part they belong to. 

When all of your pieces are cut out, tape them together. I suggest doing the parts 
(torso, arm i, arm 2, head, etc.) separately. When you have completed all of the pieces, 
assemble them into your final shape. 

Taping is the most labor-intensive part of the project. We have developed a system of 
taping in pairs while seated on the floor. Person One tears pieces of tape into 6" to 12" 
pieces (12" for seams that are straight, 6" for seams that are curved). Person Two holds 
the two pieces of plastic to be joined flat together, like two pages in a closed book. Per- 
son One applies the tape lengthwise onto one piece of plastic, so that 50% of the wddth 

hangs over (figure 12.4), and then folds the overhang onto the other side. When you open 
up the plastic, the two pieces should be joined edge to edge with the tape centered along 
the seam. While Person One is tearing off more tape, Person Two squeezes the seam to 
make sure it is sealed tight. 

When the inflatable is assembled, cut a round hole somewhere in the body, approxi- 
mately the diameter of the fan you will use. Make an air tube from another piece of 
plastic and connect it to the hole. Be especially thorough with your taping; this will be a 
high-stress connection. Tape the fan to the other end of the air tube. 

Blow up your inflatable by turning the fan on high. Once it is fioUy inflated, it is im- 
portant to turn the fan to low. When your bear inflates for the flrst time, seams will pop 
open — ^this is normal. Leave the bear inflated, and have one person get inside while the 
other remains outside. Do not try to pull the ripped seams back together to tape them. 
Simply add patches to the inflatable that are the shapes of the holes. Small holes are not 
necessarily a problem — ^the fan will constanfly be pumping in air, and that air has to go 
somewhere. If you want to leave some holes, just reinforce them vnth tape. We found that 
the older our bear got, the stronger her seams became; maybe tape gets stickier with age.^ 

Your giant inflatable sculpture can roll up to an amazingly small size, and weighs very little. 
Recruit help to roll it — ^the more people you have, the smaller your inflatable can be packed. 

Become a secret agent^ — stalk your city in disguise looking for lifeless spaces. They're 
everywhere: public parks, street comers, town squares, corporate campuses, municipal 
lobbies, schools, children's playgrounds . . . Now pack up your giant teddy bear, fan, and 
extension cord, take it to your spot, and blow it up as if it were a bomb. This is poetic ter- 
rorism. Such transformation of the environment is a gift to yourself and everyone who 
bears witness: make it an occasion. Dress up. Claim credit under a false name. Be leg- 
endary. Make art that is an event, then steal away in the confusion. Hammer out reports, 
dispatch bulletins; you are a phantom, a heroine, a soldier, a pillar of your community. 

With the right kind of wrench, you 
can open fire hydrants. Use them 
to make fountains on hot days, 
or smuggle some fire hose out 
of an emergency fire station in a 
stairwell, connect it to the hydrant, 
and run it in the front door of a fur 
boutique or corporate office. 



Other Applications 

Watch for heating vents on buildings and sidewalks, hand-dryers in bathrooms, and 
other pubhc sources of air that can be used to expand inflatables, which can be custom- 
made to fit these sites. One folk scientist made a series of inflatable tents that cotdd be 
attached to the outtake ducts of building ventilation systems to provide housing and 
warmth for their homeless occupants. 


You can blow up a social relationship! 


We once made a full-size inflatable circus tent that could fit over two hundred people 
inside. It was floorless, a dome constructed from long panels of black plastic with a 
clear skylight at the apex, and weighted down around its circumference with chain 
taped into the plastic. We made our pattern for it from the skin of half an orange. 
Once it was inflated, people entered by lifting up one side and swiftly getting in. From 
without, it looked like a titanic trash bag, but inside the atmosphere was strangely 
transformed and the outside world seemed far away. It could be used to create a 
magical performance environment in any setting with a fiat, spacious area. Though it 
served us well on many occasions, we did encounter some challenges vnth it. On ac- 
count of its great surface area, any amount of wind tended to buffet it or knock it over. 
On one occasion, we set it up atop a mountain in West Virginia, but the hundreds of 
feet of extension cord delivering the electricity to the fan diluted the power enough 
that we were barely able to inflate it. The acoustics inside were interesting — there was 
a central point in which an echo could be heard from all sides — but the noise of the 
fan made it necessary to speak loudly when addressing a group. Finally, it trapped 
heat, which could make it uncomfortable in the summer. All the same, it was incred- 
ibly cheap for a movable structure of its size, and demanded attention wherever we 
deployed it. 

When we unfurled our circus tent at an anarchist convergence following a tour of the 
Midwest, our friends demanded to learn how to make their own inflatables. Some went 

to scare up the necessary supplies, while others gathered around to discuss what we 
could make. The ideas came quickly: 

"Something people can get inside of." 

"A prop for a performance." 

"Something to make a presence when we go into town for Food Not Bombs." 

"An inflatable stage." 

"An inflatable television ..." 

"... that we can get inside . . ." 

"... and be TV stars!" 

It was settled. This time we weren't just making idle threats, we were actually going to 
blow up a television. Three hours later we were putting the finishing touches on a black 
and clear model, American-made, with a twenty-seven-foot screen. Despite its size, it 
packed down into a milk crate for the ride downtown, so we brought along the circus 
tent for good measure and threw in a few lOO-foot extension cords. 

The cooler of Food Not Bombs spaghetti hit the sidewalk. Public electrical outlets 
were located. The fan blades began to churn. Two massive forms began to rise from the 
concrete like whales surfacing in slow motion. 

Food Not Bombs was serving in a public plaza that happened to be across the street 
from the city's event coliseum. As we ate, played music, and goofed off in our television, 
its vast flashing signs reminded us of that other world. One of those pop stars so famous 
as to go by her first name alone was to perform that night. Thousands of people were 
about to pay as much apiece to see her as the seventy of us had spent on food all week. 
It was a vivid juxtaposition of modes of life, and we thought it a fortuitous chance to 
interact with the masses. 

By the time the line of consumers had formed, we had been improvising together 
for some hours on our homemade musical instruments and were eager to invite the 



newcomers to join in. But as soon as we prepared to wheel our jerry-rigged drum ma- 
chine across the street, the audio-van of the local corporate rock station pulled up on the 
sidewalk and cranked up its volume. The subtle sounds of the drum machine were lost 
in the din of blaring commercials. 

It was war. Mustering our entire array of bucket drums, whistles, boviphonic ohm 
cannons, and other sonic weapons, we converged in all our numbers in the middle of 
the street beside the van and the column of concert-goers. Dancing and yelling ardently, 
we drowned out their sound system, and created what must have been a startling spec- 
tacle for the spectators, who looked on as though they'd never seen people enjoying 
themselves in public without buying tickets first. 

Inspired, a few of us went to get the inflatable television from our base camp across 
the street. We found another outlet on the wall of the coliseum, and plugged in the fan, 
only to be scolded by some petty administrator before our conversation piece was fully 
inflated. Not to be denied, we plugged into an outlet on our side of the street, and ran 
extension cords all the way across it, holding the official at bay with references to our un- 
inteUigibly- worded permit. He went off in a huff, and a raging dance party commenced 
around and inside the television. 

Soon, corporate music fans were making their way up to us in twos and threes; our 
weirdness and excitement were simply irresistible. Before the evening was through, sev- 
eral of them had joined us in dancing inside the television, and some had even elected 
to spend the night doing so instead of entering the coliseum. Never underestimate the 
power of outlandish props and shenanigans — the masses want to join you in the streets, 
but they know it's not their revolution unless they can dance. 


Legal Support 

Before any risky action, you should prepare to minimize the impact of arrests. These Instructions 

preparations will vary in scale according to the number of people involved in your ac- 
tion — ^you'll need more lawyers and more phones at the legal aid number for an un- 
permitted march of thousands than you will for a five-person graffiti outing — but the 
essential structure vrill remain the same. 

Find a sympathetic and trustworthy lawyer, or perhaps a few of them for large ac- 
tions. Get general legal advice about the risks you wall be running — to the extent you're 
able without giving away anything sensitive — and let them know the dates and times 
you may require their services, but do not let them know anything that could implicate 
them: in order to do their job, they need to be able to prove that they are not connected 
to anything illegal. 

Next, you need a legal aid number — this is the number those arrested will call using 
their single jail-allotted phone call. The person who receives their calls at the legal aid 
number will then call the lawyer and inform him or her where arrestees are, so he or she 
can spring into action on their behalf It is important that this number not be used for 
anything else — ^you don't want to be in jail, struggling to reach the legal aid number, get- 
ting a busy signal because it's tied up by phone calls from affinity groups trying to figure 
out which of their members have been arrested or where they can get a good burrito. 
To answer such queries, another number should be set up and distributed in advance, 
the legal information number: the person receiving calls at the legal aid number can ^29 

Legal Flow Chart | 




-*- You're outta there; 


You're free! 

Legal Support 


call this number periodically, passing on the names of arrestees, and people can call the 
legal information number to ask if their comrades have been arrested. 

The legal aid number should be written in marker on a hidden part of the body of 
anyone risking arrest, perhaps with numbers inverted or coded — it's important that this 
number doesn't fall into the hands of anybody who might want to jam it, since the legal 
support of all arrestees depends on its staying open. Such provisions notwithstanding, 
the police will have the number as soon as it is dialed from their premises, and may 
investigate it or even raid its location. For this reason, it's important that the site of the 
legal aid number be prepared for trouble, so the number will work come what may. 
Sometimes security matters will necessitate that the number not be connected to any in- 
dividuals, lest they be investigated; for such actions, the number could be a public phone 
of some kind — say, a payphone in the middle of nowhere that takes incoming calls, 
flanked by scouts who can announce incoming police. The drawbacks of this approach 
are obvious, so don't employ tighter security precautions than your action warrants. 

If potential arrestees plan to do "jail solidarity," tying up the penal processing system 
by not revealing their identities, the group handling legal support should have a secret 
list of the identities and aliases of everyone risking arrest. Arrestees who call the legal aid 
number will give their aliases, and their true identities can then be passed on secretly to 
their affinity groups, lawyers, and families. There's little reason to try jail solidarity tactics 
unless you actually have enough people to tie up their system, so be conservative when 
considering this tactic; if the authorities are expecting a demonstration or similar event 
to result in arrests, they may be prepared to jail hundreds of people without difficulty. 

It will happen that people will be arrested when no support structure has been pre- 
pared. In this case, the first challenge is for possible supporters outside to find out that 
people have been arrested, and where they are. If you are being arrested and you don't 
mind identifying yourself publicly, call out your name and a contact number to any- 

In the event of arrest, especially 
during massive demonstrations or 
other chaos, you can withhold your 
identity from the police for a few 
hours, thus increasing the likelihood 
that they will lose track of what your 
charges are, who your arresting officer 
was, or other crucial information. 

Legal Support 

You can refuse to answer any 

questions by police officers, 

other than giving your name and 

address — and there is no reason you 

would ever benefit from answering 

their questions, or questions from 

federal agents or other law enforcers, 

no matter what they tell you, so keep 

quiet and insist that you won't speak 

until you've spoken with a lawyer. 

Legal Support 

one who can pass word along for you — -better yet, share this information in advance. 
Likewise, if you see others being arrested, you can offer to do the same for them, while 
being careful not to get yourself arrested in the process. If nothing else, always have a 
person in mind that you can use your one phone call to contact. If you know or suspect 
that someone for whom you are willing to do legal support has been arrested, and you 
don't have reason to keep her identity a secret, you can call the precinct to which she 
has been taken — or any precinct to which she may have been taken — and demand to 
know whether she has been arrested, whether she is at the precinct, what the charges 
are, what her arrest number is, and if she vrill be released from the precinct or taken to 
a central booking or holding location. If the authorities refuse to cooperate, try showing 
up in person — it always helps for the police to know that people are concerned about the 
individual they are holding. Depending on the mood of the officer in charge, you may 
be able to get your friend food or a note, pick up her belongings, or even see her. Collect 
money for bail, if necessary — ^you'U probably need to have it ready in cash. 

To bail someone out of jail, you can either give the entire amount of the bail to the 
court system, in which case you will presumably receive it back when the legal process 
is finally concluded, or you can go to a bail bondsman and pay 10% of that; in the latter 
case, the bondsman's fees may cost you a significant amount of money. If no one can 
pay bail for someone, they may sit in jail until their court date, although in the case of 
minor infractions it can happen that poHce release people on their own recognizance so 
as not to have to deal with them. 

Any community whose members may suffer arrest would do well to establish a bail 
fund in advance. This can save a lot of running around in the middle of other emergen- 
cies. Throw benefit shows, set aside infoshop profits, solicit donations from wealthy 
sympathizers, and make sure that the fund stays with someone who is even-handed, 
trustworthy, and always easy to reach. 

As arrestees are released from jail, greet them with food, drink, and open arms. Make 
sure they know when their next court date is, what their charges are, and the identity of 
the lawyer at their arraignment; make sure everyone in the community knows that they 
are in legal trouble and need support. Get contact information for everybody involved 
in the incident: these people may later be able to provide testimony or evidence, such as 
video footage, that will be important in the trial. Likewise, if you have any documenta- 
tion or evidence that might help others, or you are vrilling to serve as a witness if others 
go to trial, track them down and offer your services. After any interaction with the police 
that may result in legal proceedings, immediately write down every detail you remem- 
ber about it that you would share with a court of law, including times, locations, names, 
words exchanged, and possible witnesses. Have witnesses verify the date and time you 
made these notes. 

Police will often charge arrestees v^dth every crime they can think of, even though 
most of these charges will not stick, just to frighten them. Don't let them intimidate 
you. Things may not be as bad as they seem. Consult "In Case of Arrest" in Health Care 
(pg. 275) for more information about how to prepare for the possibility of arrest. 

If you have been injured by the police or others and there is any chance that you might Shooting the Wounded 
bring suit or file a complaint against them or help someone else to do so, document 
your injuries as soon after they occur as possible. With the best possible camera, film, 
and lighting, start out v^ith photos of your entire body, then take close-up shots of every 
wound. Don't use the flash for the close-ups, as it will create glare off your skin; include 
a ruler or item of standardized size in some close-ups to give a sense of scale. Contin- 
ue taking photographs of your injuries as they heal, noting which pictures were taken 
which days and by whom. Take photographs of the scene of the injury, too, if possible, / /c 
once again starting with a panoramic view and then focusing in on details. If you can, 333 

go to a doctor or free clinic and get official documentation of every injury. Save evidence. 
If you have bloody clothes, seal them in a plastic bag and keep it in a freezer. The same 
goes for tear gas canisters, rubber bullets, and the like. 

After Bailout Remember, after you've bailed your friends out of jail, the most significant part of their 
struggle with the legal system remains ahead. Awaiting trial can be terrifying; provide 
as much emotional and practical support as you can through the entire process. Often, 
the trial will be postponed over and over, as a means of keeping the accused paralyzed. 
When planning actions that may result in lengthy legal proceedings, factor in the energy 
and effort that it will take to support arrestees; everyone who gets caught should have 
such a positive experience being supported by their community that no amount of in- 
timidation can shake them from their revolutionary commitments. Go with them to ev- 
ery single appearance in court, bake them treats, raise money to offset their legal costs, 
be there for them as emotional support. Don't gossip about what happened to them — if 
the police beat your friend into unconsciousness, she probably doesn't need to answer 
questions about it all the time, and she might not be comfortable feeling that everyone 
is talking about it behind her back. Don't unthinkingly belittle anyone, either — "I can't 
believe they beat her, she's so small and gentle." After the legal struggles are over, don't 
forget about them: if they're in prison, write to them and visit often, and if they're free, 
don't assume that means they're over the trauma. People willing to risk arrest to make 
the world a better place are heroes, all of them, and should be made to feel that they are. 

Account when one of our members got arrested at a small demonstration at the United Nations, 

her legal support person got the word that she had been nicked and rode his bicycle to 

j_ j Support ^^ precinct. He persuaded the sleepy desk sergeant that he was her fiance, and got a 

3J4 note into the jail for her saying supporters were outside and providing the name and 

phone number of a lawyer she could call. She spread the word to the others in her cell 
who had also been arrested at the action that supporters were outside and that they had 
a lawyer. Meanwhile, her contact person was able to find out her docket number and 
where she was on the list to be arraigned, so when she talked to her lawyer, she knew 
when she would be up. He also arranged to get her house keys so that her cat could 
be fed. When she was finally arraigned, her contact person and other members of her 
affinity group were waiting with hugs, support, and Chinese take-out. 

Legal Support 

Marches o^ Parades 


Marches, from Permitted to 


Permits are basically a scam by which the powers that be charge you for your right to 
freedom of assembly, enlisting you in the process to inform them of what to expect and 
when to expect it — and also to monitor what happens on their behalf, since they now 
have you as a hostage. Indeed, it is typical of the permitted march organizer that he 
develops an authoritarian obsession with regulating the behavior of everyone in "his" 
march, since he can be held responsible for whatever happens by the next people up the 
chain of command. The permit system also helps the powers that be limit the option of 
engaging in public activity to those privileged enough to speak the language of bureau- 
cracy. All the more reason for us to buHd up enough social power to march whenever 
we want, permits be damned. 

Still, it's worth doing things to spice up permitted marches, since the poor organizers 
have their hands tied. At the very least, you can hand out leaflets informing other partici- 
pants of more radical alternatives. Better, dress up in costume, and make your statement 
with humor or theater; this can also be an unthreatening way to disguise yourself, which 
you may want to do for any number of reasons — ^just make sure your costume doesn't 
greatly hinder your vision or mobility, if any of your "reasons" require these. Puppets, 
too, can be festive and expressive, and they can function as shields, obscure police vi- 
sion, or smuggle in useful resources, according to your needs and ingenuity. 

A percussion bloc equipped with drums can really add atmosphere to any march. 
Drums can be made by affixing string shoulder straps to empty water cooler jugs, or to 

those five-gallon buckets you find, behind corporate businesses. Big traffic barrels can 
also be requisitioned, equipped with wheels, and applied as bass drums. A little prac- 
tice can produce a marching band to be reckoned with. You may not all need to bring 
drums — street signs, dumpsters, police cars, all these make great percussion devices, 
and it can be inspiring for others to discover that the oppressive city environment is 
a veritable sea of musical instruments just waiting to be utilized. Don't forget, either, 
the variety of other instruments that can be integrated into marching music, including 
saxophones, megaphone sirens, and whistles— the last of which can be clenched in the 
teeth of people who have their hands full drumming. Singing, topical or wordless and 
improvisational, can really raise spirits, too. 

Speaking of singing — chanting almost always breaks out at permitted marches. You 
may be one of those sheep-like souls whose heart thrills at the sound of a mass of 
people repeating the same few inane syllables in brainless unison; but if you're not, 
consider how you vrill handle the situation if it arises. At the very least, you can always 
make up your ov\ai: "Hey hey, ho ho, megaphones have got to go!," "Rob the rich, arm 
the poor, social justice is civil war!," "I say something, you say something: Something! 
('Something!') Something! ('Something!') You say nothing, I say nothing! ('Nothing!') 
No, you idiots!" All this is not to say that there's never a place for chanting — ^sometimes 
it can be an important affirmation, or exhortation — but there's a big difference between 
shouting, "Whose streets? Our streets!," as you sweep the police off the highway and 
mumbling those same words from the sidewalk. 

Banners, on the other hand, serve a variety of important purposes in almost every 
march scenario. These can be made from painters' drop cloth coated in white primer 
paint and decorated wdth mis-mixed house paint, which you can find cheap or free at 
most hardware stores. They can be reinforced with bamboo or other sturdy (but light!) 
materials. In addition to making your views more explicit to others, banners held firmly 

You can carry a sports whistle or 
emergency whistle for use in a 
marching band or other public 
noisemaking activity; unlike a 
bucket drum, whistles are practically 
weightless, leave the hands free, and 
can easily be concealed, while still 
making a commanding racket. 

Marches and Parades 

You can start a marching band; 

on off days, practice by parading 

around neighborhoods, keeping life 

fun and unpredictable and perhaps 

distributing announcements of 

upcoming events. 

When two things must be 

connected swiftly and durably, 

such as the segments of a banner 

barricade, you can use zip ties in 

place of rope or chain. 

Marches and Parades 

along the front and sides of marches will help keep police out and obscure their lines of 
sight into your ranks. Remeraber, always aim the business end of a banner away from 
your fellow activists, in the direction from which the march is most visible to everyone 
else; it's remarkable how slack people can be about keeping a banner legible to viewers. 

Cloth banners have the benefit of rolling up easily, but if you can transport them and 
you think you can get them in place without prematurely occasioning too much atten- 
tion from the police, you can always make banners out of other materials. One group 
took six boards of tough cardboard insulation material, each four feet high and ten feet 
long, painted messages on the fronts, and cut handholds on the sides. With chain or 
rope, these signs could be bound together, forming a virtually impregnable, mobile bar- 
rier up to sixty feet long. This barricade could be shifted at any one of five hinge-points 
to form any shape, and yet was Hght enough to carry for long periods. The material had 
enough give that it could bear a few blows without breaking, and, carried by a minimum 
of seven courageous people (one at each joint), could secure a broad area from police 
incursion. When these were deployed in a liberal tovm without much history of political 
street confrontation, the police didn't know enough to seize them when they arrived at 
the demonstration before they were safely in the hands of the crowd. 

On the other hand, if the primary purpose is to maintain visibility and morale rather 
than secure and defend your space, consider a more unusual format. In another situa- 
tion, our group painted a circle-A on a round piece of lightweight wood three and a half 
feet in diameter and made a pair of wings for it out of stolen tablecloths, using fabric 
glue to cover them in cut cloth "feathers" spray painted white and blue. We set the whole 
thing alofi: on poles of PVC pipe, two for the big A and one at the end of each wing to 
hold them extended to their full twenty-three-foot span, so it could be carried up to 
twelve feet in the air, above all other banners and signs. Later, we replaced the PVC pipe 
with bamboo, which proved lighter and just as durable. 

There's more! You can decorate the convergence point or march route ahead of time 
with graffiti, wheatpasted posters, or broken windows. This can raise morale, and help 
less radical marchers get used to the idea that unlawful self-expression also has a legiti- 
mate place in the tactical toolbox. That's starting small — if you feel your fellow marchers 
are ready for more, and you trust them not to betray you or have great faith in your own 
powers of blending and evading, you can use the crowd cover to spray paint through 
stencils onto the street in the middle of the march, leaving radical messages behind as 
the mass moves forward. If the sides of your march are not thoroughly lined with police, 
you can also drag barricades into the middle of the crowd, which can interfere with the 
police cars following behind. 

Setting up barricades might be especially useful if you're interested in turning your 
permitted march into an unpermitted one. Except in conditions of extreme surveillance 
and police repression, such re-routing is not particularly difficult to achieve, provided 
you have a small group ready to take the first risks. The police will be herding you along 
the prescribed route; at some point, they will leave a side street virtually unguarded, or 
attempt to steer everyone into a turn, leaving a thin line of gesturing police symboli- 
cally blocking the way forward. At this point, if a determined, tightly-knit group surges 
forward, close enough together and fearless enough that the police cannot snatch up 
some and thus intimidate the others, they can open a space for the rest of the marchers 
to follow. If you are attempting to reroute the entire march, hoping all those behind 
you will follow, you should position your group at the very front; if you are breaking 
off from the main body of the march with only those who are ready to contest public 
space actively, you might want to do so starting in the middle of the march, or even 
toward the back. In the latter case, you can count on confusion among the surprised 
and newly-divided police to give you something of an advantage, but you should also 
be prepared for much stricter repressive measures, as you are now isolated from your 

On a big day of political action, you 
can draw the police away from other 
events by applying for a permit for 
a demonstration described in terms 
that attract their attention, and 
promoted by a website calculated to 
send the Threat Assessment Unit into 
hysterics. The event, of course, is in 
a district far from the real action, and 
turns out to be attended by a handful 
of weil-behaved citizens. 

Marches and Parades 

law-abiding fellows. Make sure you have a few possible courses planned out, includ- 
ing escape routes, should your breakaway march be broken up; scouts and means of 
communication are important for staying informed of the movements of the police on 
nearby streets. See Blocs, Black and Otherwise (pg. 127) for more discussion of unpermit- 
ted group activities. This, like any tactic, should only be applied in a context in which it 
makes sense, of course. Your goal, presumably, is to empower and inspire your fellow 
marchers, even the more timid ones — not turn them against you by endangering them 
or making them feel disrespected. 

All this assumes your permitted march is already in the street, which may not be the 
case. If a line of police is confining you to the sidewalk, and your objective is to take the 
street, wait for a turn and suddenly flood out into the street, just as you would if you 
were trying to reroute a street march. 

Banners, especially reinforced or solid ones, will be especially useful in such a situ- 
ation. If the banner-bearers can use them to block the street for a few seconds, and the 
crowd is swift and decisive enough to fill the space they open, this can provide the nec- 
essary opportunity. Banners can even hold police on motorcycles at bay, if brandished 
bravely enough. Once you cross the line into unpermitted, unlawful activity, your cour- 
age and community spirit comprise your .new permit, and you'd better be ready to stick 
to them together. 

Sanctioned Town Parades 

Marches and Parades 

It's not hard to reserve a section in most town parades, and participation is often free. 
Usually you just need to obtain a form from the city and fiU it out with a (fabricated?) 
name and contact for your organization—^all yourselves the [name of your city] Bucca- 
neers, if you can't think of anything else. Such events, just like street fairs, are excellent 
opportunities to make the anarchist presence visible and welcome in communities. If 
people have seen you waving and giving out free food at every public event for a few 

years, they're less likely to feel intimidated when they see you masked up in an unper- 
mitted march — or to think you deserve it when the police beat you for marching and 
then charge you with assault. 

If you already have banners from other marches, you can bring them out on these oc- 
casions (don't forget, also, that these banners can hang on the walls at every punk show, 
speaker event, and independent video night you put on) — ^but make sure you're not 
needlessly alienating your audience. Better yet, put together something fun and tailored 
to the specific event — make a pirate ship float complete with eye-patched pirates flying 
the black flag, or, for the Christmas parade, put together a Santa Glaus bloc of white- 
bearded, red-clad anarcho-communists distributing gifts and advocating the redistribu- 
tion of wealth. Consider what you can give out to folks watching the parade — the fortune 
cookie model is hard to beat for combining sweet sustenance and information — and 
what kind of spectacle you can put on for their entertainment. 

For the July 4th parade mentioned in the Banner Drops account (pg. 75), we reserved 
spaces for two groups: a peace march with the usual signs and chants, and an anarchist 
contingent featuring a marching band, crazy home-engineered circus bicycles, two fire- 
breathers, our flying circle- A with the 2 3 -foot wingspan, and people giving out fortune 
cookies {in this case, vegan chocolate chip cookies in plastic baggies, each with a quote 
of subversive implications from some "founding father" of the American revolution) 
and little fliers explicating anarchism. The peace march, being the only contingent in 
the entire parade to take the year's theme "celebrating our heroes" seriously, actually 
won a prize ("Best Use of Theme") for their posters of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and 
Emma Goldman. On the other hand, we anarchists unexpectedly turned out to be one of 
the most popular sections in the march, thanks to the liveliness of our approach. At one 
point, when I was carrying the pipe holding aloft one of its wings, a man in conservative 


Marches and Parades 

dress there with his wife and child asked what the big A was for. "Anarchy," I replied, 
and he nodded approvingly. After the parade, a street festival began at which we manned 
a table, giving out literature and recruiting for Food Not Bombs for the rest of the day. 
The next year, we participated again — and this time won "Best in Show," of course. 

Appendix When you're not interacting with an official city parade or a march called for by other 
Noise Parades activists, but you're also not looking to provoke a confrontation with the powers that 
Instructions be, you can organize an event that isn't illegal, strictly speaking, but still falls outside 
the bounds of the permissible and predictable. One of the models for such an event is 
the "noise parade": rather than fighting for the street, a group accepts the scant public 
space set aside for it, but transforms this space by means of entertaining or challenging 
sounds, visuals, theater, and so on. Such an action is bound to be fun at the very least, 
and can be good for starting conversations, achieving visibility, and startling slumberers 
from their ennui-induced sleep. 

If such an event isn't closed to outside participation, it can engage passersby in trans- 
figuring their own oppressive environments — e.g., a parade that goes up and down a 
boring teenage hang-out street until everyone has joined in. The absence of an explicitly 
political message can often be a good thing — not everything we do has to be topical or 
reactive: it's also important to be consistently present as a welcomed source of entertain- 
ment and good cheer. 


Marches and Parades 

It was in the car on our way back from a Reclaim the Streets in Raleigh that a noise 
parade was first suggested. "What can we do to shake things up?" Downtown Greens- 
boro seemed the perfect canvas — a place designed for routine, for liie soulless, lifeless 
exchange of capital, inhabited by robots, the businessmen and -women who've had all 
their creativity suppressed by a lifetime of bourgeois comfort and control. 

So the idea was to create a breach, an interruption, by means of noise and costum- 
ing. To this end, we made elaborate noise devices; some were designed to be percus- 
sive, others to create droning, constant sounds. We made enormous, absurd costumes 
with giant masks and metal frames; we devised bizarre uniforms and color-coordinated 
protest signs proclaiming nonsensical slogans. But our inventions and proclamations 
were only instruments; the creative medium that really interested us was inside the on- 
lookers. When we walked by and they said, "What the hell is that!?," that would be our 
painting, that confusion our poetry, that curiosity, that disbelief, our sculpture. 

And we couldn't resist the opportunity to make demands. So we targeted the owners 
of this town — the Jefferson Pilot Corporation, the only ones with enough resources to 
make the necessary changes. 

From the outset of the organizing, we realized that we needed a delicate balance 
between spontaneity and precise planning. We established an elite corps responsible 
for the planning, so the project would be focused and coordinated, and invited a large 
number of others — the "periphery" — to join at the last minute, bringing with them the 
fresh enthusiasm that can otherwise be destroyed by a month of weekly meetings. 

The core group began meeting about a month and a half before the parade. At 
our first meeting we established our responsibilities: which of us would make the 
signs, who was in charge of costumes, and so forth. We chose a date for the parade, 
established a timetable for the coming meetings, and set deadlines. All our dates and 
deadlines were pushed and pulled, of course, but we continued to meet weekly. The 
Sunday before the Thursday of our parade, we held a "stuff meeting," and then a "fi- 
nal orientation" the night before. These last two meetings were more like art exhibi- 
tions than anything else, as our artists brought in their outlandish costume designs 
and noise instruments. We began to get excited, to feel like the event was actually 
going to happen. 

To make free marcliing drums, you 
can gather five-gallon buckets from 
behind business establishments, and 
poke holes In their sides through 
which to slide straps that go around 
the waist or over the shoulder. 

Marches and Parades 

Marches and Parades 

The periphery began taking shape less than a week before the parade. Most of the 
people involved didn't come to a single meeting, they just showed up on Thursday morn- 
ing, ready to make noise and get cra2y. By noon, the preparation was over and the chaos 
began. We threw everything in the van and drove to the departure point dovmtown. We 
dressed and got ready in the Food Not Bombs park, and set off down Elm Street around 
12:20 p.m. 

All of us were clad in black choir robes that hung to the ground. A — wore a backpack 
of percussion devices that jingled and boomed as she walked; one of them could be op- 
erated by a drawstring hanging before her. Mounted on J— -'s shoulders was a geodesic 
dome that surrounded him to a radius of a few feet; a keyboard was built inside it for 
him to play. I was blindfolded, playing a boviphonic ohm cannon (see Musical Instru- 
ments, pg. 383), with a camera on my head recording everything I did not see as a man 
in a gorilla mask led me through the streets. Three more of us bore an enormous drum 
on a stretcher. Others beat drums or brandished signs: "Just Married," "You Can't Push 
a Rope, Nope," "I Can't Fly Either." We had undercover agents planted in the lunch-rush 
mob, too: at one point, a man in conventional business -district attire leaped from the 
crowd, shrieking, "Oh my god, what are you doing? What's this about?" As the majority of 
the parade's participants had not known this was planned, it made everything that much 
more intense for us as well as the onlookers. We maintained our monastic muteness, of 
course, marching forward with only the cacophony of our instruments for an answer. 

We paraded north into downtown, took a left on Friendly Avenue, and circled the block, 
arriving on the doorstep of the J. P. building on Market Street. We presented our ninety- 
five demands, which were printed on a Suzuki violin, and made our way back to the park. 
It was a quick in-and-out operation, lasting approximately 40 minutes, start to finish. 

All in all, the parade was a great success. We got the reactions we wanted out of the 
shocked denizens of the business district, and in ourselves most of all — sweaty palms, 

pounding heartbeats, terror and exhilaration, tumult and exultation. There are things 
we could have improved on — ^better preparation, tighter marching formation, not for- 
getting the demands in the van and having to run back for them, and especially integrat- 
ing the periphery more (bringing them in earlier?) so there would be no risk of anyone 
feeling like a mere warm body in someone else's project — ^but, overall, it was a good way 
to challenge ourselves and escalate the tensions in Greensboro, maintaining the feeling 
that something is happening. 

Marches and Parades 

Media, Independent 

Why Do Media Yourself? 


Optional Ingredients 


There's Already Independent 
Media m My Town! 


Creating your own media enables you to spread information without being censored or 

misrepresented, freeing you and those you reach from dependence on corporate media. 
Independent media centers can be hubs of radical activity, drawing together otherwise 
disparate groups and connecting the efforts of intrepid independent journalists. Anyone 
has the potential to serve the public as a journalist, videographer, radio technician, com- 
puter technician, or photographer wdthout going to expensive universities or specialty 
schools. Stop waiting for the corporate media to cover your stories, and begin making 
your own media! 


Computer WITH internet access 
Video camera 
Video-editing software 

Digital camera or a scanner 
Microphone and audio tape recorder 

There may already be media outlets in your community that are independent to some 
degree. While you can bet your bottom dollar that every nationally-affiliated news station 
is utterly at the mercy of their corporate masters, there are often smaller venues that 
may have some integrity left. These can include public access TV channels, low-power 
community radio stations, college radio stations, alternative websites, and local cultural. 

subcultural, and news magazines. Work out which stories they aren't covering, and how 
your independent media group could provide them with material no one else offers — ^lo- 
cal and global news from a revolutionary perspective, for instance. If there is already a 
group working on radical media production, you may want to join their collective or 
at least build a relationship with them. Always welcome connections, and be on the 
lookout for new media activists and free or cheap equipment. At the same time, be wary 
when considering joining an existing group; almost every established media institution 
has strings attached, just as almost every paid journalist has ulterior motives. 

After checking out your local media scene, see if you can get a collective of radical media Becoming the Media 

activists together. As in all collectives, diversity is strength: in media work, a diversity 

of technical strengths and social backgrounds is a must. Media work can attract a wide 

range of people of differing ages and demographics — and beware, these people may 

fight amongst themselves! One of the most difficult parts of working in your group may 

be dealing with the wide variety of differing political beliefs and goals while keeping 

everyone focused on productive activity. 

It is essential for radicals to stick to their principles in media work. To protect your 
group from being co-opted by liberal interests or internal hierarchies, be consistent in 
operating by consensus and direct democracy and make a point of having no ties with 
the corporate media. 

Many media groups use an open-membership collective model that allows anyone to at- Media Organizing and Focus 

tend meetings, present ideas, and participate in the production of media. These groups 

operate by consensus and encourage new individuals to join. Media affinity groups may 

form for specific projects, such as covering an illegal direct action that cannot be an- independent Media 

nounced in advance to the public or even to the rest of the media collective. 34/ 

Once your group has gotten together, you will want to focus on your goals as a media 
collective. There are several options for making media: releasing information through 
websites, producing videos for community screenings or public access television, pro- 
ducing newspapers and magazines, creating audio productions for pirate radio stations, 
low-power FM stations, even college radio. Anything is possible, provided your group 
has the time, proper organization, and skills or at least willingness to learn. Your group 
should discuss what equipment you can access, and what you will need to accomplish 
your chosen projects. Always offer training to people who are interested in learning new 
skills: this will help to spread power and technical ability evenly both inside your group 
and in tiie community around you. 

Publicizing Your Media Outlet It won't matter how good your webpage or paper or videos are if people never see them. 

Especially at the beginning of your enterprise, you'll do well to put as much energy into 
promoting your news sources as you do into providing news through them. People 
need to be used to coming to them on a regular basis for information. Your long-term 
goal may be to wean people off corporate media sources entirely, and if that's the case 
you need to let the world know that you can offer everything the corporate media offers 
and more. Distribute your papers everywhere. Arrange for local establishments to car- 
ry them regularly, and get them into unexpected places, too (see Distribution, Tabling, 
and Infoshops, pg. 210). Get other websites to link to yours, and put up stickers with 
its address everywhere. Promote showings of your videos, tying them to otiier events 
or making them into social gatherings with refreshments. Hold guerrilla showings in 
busy public places, using a projector to show video or photos on the walls of buildings. 
Encourage activists who receive corporate press coverage to use it to direct people to 
Independent Media independent media coverage. Also, solicit constantly for people who might want to use 
j4S the means you provide to tell their own story, or make their own media. 

Indymedia is an example of an international media network. Much like Crimethlnc, 
it is as much a brand name as it is an estabUshed body of media collectives; the main 
advantages it has to offer are the name recognition associated with its radical media 
centers and the opportunity to network with other media activists. The Indymedia net- 
work is composed of local Indymedia-aflfiliated Independent Media Centers (IMCs). An 
Independent Media Center operates by the principles of equality decentralization, and 
local autonomy. If there's no local Indymedia group you want to join, you can create 
one yourself Provided that the collective agrees with the IMC Principles of Unity, if 
your group so vnshes it can become part of the global Indymedia network. To join, you 
must compose your own Mission Statement and Editorial Policy, which can easily be 
plagiarized from one of the hundreds of IMCs already out there, have representatives 
join various Indymedia communication email listservs, and set up a website. See www. for details. 

Joining Indymedia 

Starting a website is straightforward, provided that one person in your collective has a 
computer with internet access. You do not personally have to be very skilled with com- 
puters; it is only necessary that you be witling to learn skills and ask people for help with 
your problems. Free web space is available through various servers, including those of 
Indymedia and other non-profit groups. You should use a fairly reliable server, with lots 
of space if you're doing video work or expect your site to be viewed during a major pro- 
test; you should have a backup site, preferably based in another country, in case govern- 
ment agents try to shut down your site. An obscure web server in a country like Vietnam 
may well just throw away letters from angry lawyers or foreign governments. 

Just like the corporate news, a website should be updated constantly, providing up-to- 
the-minute coverage and interactive forums. Providing an open publishing newswire, a 
forum on which anyone can publish news and discussion, is one way to facilitate this. 

Media Websites and Open 

Independent Media 

Writing News Articles, Tal<ing 
Photographs, Recording Audio 

independent Media 

Allowing anyone to post on the site enables Indymedia and similar sites to react more 
quickly than corporate news to events as they unfold. However, fascists, federal and 
corporate agents, and other spammers may take advantage of the "open wire" to post to 
your site. If your site is flooded with offensive posts, people who actually need to use it 
will stop because they have to wade through so much filth to get to the news. The best 
way to prevent this problem is to have a firm editorial poHcy banning racist, sexist, ho- 
mophobic, and other rubbish from the site. 

An open wire is not usually enough to get quality news coverage on your website; it helps 
to have at least a couple of writers making a serious effort to report on events and issues. 

News articles should always cover the Who, What, When, and Where of an event first, 
and obey basic laws of grammar and spelling. It helps for them to be as concise as possi- 
ble. This isn't the corporate media, so you don't have to be afraid to report some of your 
personal experiences or opinions or to make articles exciting in other ways. Corporate 
news definitely isn't "objective," and you shouldn't pretend to be, either — ^be upfront 
about your stance, while avoiding rhetorical flourishes and rambling. 

When it comes to getting good photographs, it helps to take as many as possible. 
Digital cameras are generally the easiest and cheapest cameras for this purpose. Take 
pictures from differing vantage points: get crowd shots, individual shots, shots of any- 
thing out of the ordinary. Take hghting into account, and aim for clean shots with the 
faces at mid-level in the picture. All this goes double for video recording, and you also 
have to pay attention to your balance and steadiness in holding the camera. If you can 
keep the camera in one place, consider using a tripod for extra stability. For audio re- 
cording, get the microphone as close to each speaker as possible, and don't be reluctant 
to tell an interviewee to pause if the audio tape is about to run out. With all electronic 
gadgetry, always check the batteries, and have replacements! 

Getting into video production may seem difficult and expensive, but nowadays, thanks 
to new digital video cameras, non-linear editing systems, and public access television, 
almost anyone can begin to make their own videos. If you can find a good library, a col- 
lege media center with lax security, or a public access television channel, you can make a 
video without a digital video camera, an expensive editing program, or even a computer 
of your own. The main obstacle to overcome is the large amount of space video takes 
up on a computer. Try getting an editing program from friends or off the internet; once 
you have a good one, learning to edit is not too difficult. If you complete a video, you 
can hold public showings, book a tour around the country to show and speak about it 
in person, even syndicate it on an independent television station. All of these could also 
function as fundraisers for your independent media center. 

Video Editing 

Almost all communities have public access television stations that offer cheap or even 
free classes on video editing, television show production, and fieldwork. If your com- 
munity does not have a public access channel, find out who the local cable provider is 
and demand one. Many states have laws that force cable companies to provide public ac- 
cess channels for the commimities they serve. Not only do public access channels offer 
classes, once you have completed a basic course you can check out their equipment, use 
their video-editing suite, even sign up to host a hve public access show. 

Public Access Television 

Doing media work at direct actions is the lifeblood of many an independent media 
journalist, and it's a thrilling and dangerous undertaking. It's vital, since it's often the 
only way that news about a particular direct action will get out. If the direct action is 
highly illegal and the participants want to remain anonymous, you will probably want 
to remain anonymous as well, as any media work you do can tie you to the action. How- 
ever, if you can upload your report and documentation from a computer that can't be 

Media Work at Direct Actions 

Independent Media 

You can make your own movie out 

of an existing one by dubbing in 

your own dialogue; alternatively, add 

your own subtitles to a movie in an 

obscure foreign language. 

Independent Media 

traced to you and isn't watched by security cameras, you should be able to retain your 
anonymity. Be careful: if police or government agencies do investigate the action, they 
will definitely make an effort to identify the person who sent out the communique or 
posted photographs. If the action is aboveground, on the other hand, you will probably 
have to compete with other news outlets — but if you are quick, you can break the news 
first, and venues such as the open wire will provide an opportunity for radicals to tell 
their own stories. 

At any action, respect the desires of people who vidsh not to have their pictures taken 
or to be filmed or interviewed. Remember, many people rightfully want to hide their 
identities, at meetings and peaceful marches as well as during direct actions. ScufHes 
have broken out before between black blocs and well-intentioned Indymedia reporters. 
It can be a good policy to keep your cameras aimed away from your comrades and at the 
police, as defensive weapons. 

In the halcyon days before the Seatde World Trade Organization protests, a press 
pass and a video camera could often fool the police into mistaking you for a part of the 
media establishment, but this is no longer the case: the police know very well that inde- 
pendent media are used by anarchists and other activists, and target independent media 
accordingly. It is possible to rescue people from serious legal difficulties with the docu- 
mentation provided by independent media work; it is also possible to document police 
brutality, even get individual police punished or departments sued. Due to the possibil- 
ity that footage wUl be used against them in court or on the corporate news, the police 
sometimes attack video camera operators and arrest media activists without provocation 
just to get their hands on their videotapes or photographs and destroy them. 

If you can afford it, insure your equipment against damages before any major protest, 
and always have a partner with you when you videotape. Change tapes often, giving foot- 
age to your partner to convey to a secure location. To help you see while videotaping. 

you can install on your camera a rearview mirror from a bike; to fool the cops, you can 
attach a dummy tape underneath the camera with Velcro. Wear a watch, and film your 
watch and road signs or other location markers frequently to show location and time of 
specific incidents. As in any direct action, know the area where you plan to shoot, and 
have a safe getaway plan. You can put black electrical tape over the "record" light so 
police and other enemies can't tell if you are shooting, but make sure you can still tell. 
For filming in sketchy situations, cut a camera hole in an old dufHe bag. To get better 
audio, get a microphone that you can attach to your clothing. When in doubt, leave the 
camera running. Have a press pass, a notebook, and a pen handy so you can give out 
your contact details to people interested in your footage, and keep a lawyer's number on 
you in case you're arrested or hassled by the cops. 

At large demonstrations, there is often an independent media center that provides in- 
ternet access for posting reports and equipment for digitizing and editing video. Since the 
forces of darkness have realized that independent media serves as an important means of 
communication, police often attempt to raid these centers. This makes it unwise to store 
any video or equipment there. The same applies doubly for media work in international 
hotspots Hke Iraq or Palestine. Hide your media footage in clever places when crossing 
through military checkpoints or risking being stopped and searched. Speed is of the es- 
sence at these events: get your news and pictures out the day they were taken. If you edit 
footage for press releases and press conferences after an event, leave long shots to reas- 
sure viewers the footage has not been doctored. Cutting footage or adding in slow-motion 
effects and music may make the news media reject your footage as "anarchist propagan- 
da," or get your evidence dropped from court proceedings. Always make copies of your 
masters and hide them in a safe place. Consult a lawyer before releasing controversial 
footage. If it happens that you can sell footage to the news media, don't let the evil corpora- 
tions rip you off: learn their rates for purchasing video and use a standard contract. 

Using FM transmitters nnade for 
personal stereos and accessorized 
with more powerful antennas for 
better transmission, you can set up 
mobile short-distance pirate radio 
stations. These could be hidden 
by key intersections, broadcasting 
site-specific messages on popular 
frequencies around the clock, without 
attracting the attention a citywide 
pirate radio station would. 

Independent Media 


Independent Media 

We arrived in Genoa a few days before the demonstrations were due to start, to help set 
up the Indymedia Center. I traveled in a tiny camper van with my friend Maria from 
Germany. The border caused no problem — we told the border guards we were holiday- 
ing on the coast, giving each other a little knowing look. When we arrived in Genoa, the 
heavy police presence was immediately apparent. 

The convergence center for the Genoa protests was being set up down near the 
beach. At the stadium just a hundred yards away, there was a huge police headquar- 
ters. After wandering around for a while, we camped for the night parked out of sight 
beside one of the big tents of the half-finished convergence center. In the morning, 
after meeting up with other groups, we made our way to the Indymedia Center situ- 
ated in the Diaz School. 

We found a place to stay in the Indymedia Center. The video room was fiill of tech- 
nical equipment, but none of it seemed to be available for pubUc use. Fortunately, two 
computers were "requisitioned" from other rooms and the needed video-editing software 
installed — although predictably one of the computers soon broke, never to work again. 

Maria and I took to the streets to make the first report from the convergence center. It 
wasn't long before we were stopped and detained by a group of undercover police while 
filming. We were outside the main police accommodation stadium, which mysteriously 
happened to be right next to the convergence center. We were held for a few hours 
while more undercover police arrived, imtil there were ten or twelve police and two cars 
around us. They asked me for the tape in the camera, and I refused. They took down 
all our details and checked our passports — it became a bit nerve-racking. However, I 
secretly filmed some of the secret police. 

Maria recalls, "It was the first time I was in a big protest event like this, so I was 
rather naive about what to expect ... It felt like being suddenly inside a movie. Luckily, 
I found people explaining to me in detail what to expect from police during the day of 

action, how to deal with tear gas, and so on ... in that sense, the Indymedia Center was 
a somewhat casual but rather helpful and warm place to be." 

We continued to dodge around the streets, trying to film the barrier being constructed 
that would surround the G-8 leaders. We were stopped and detained twice, for an hour 
the first time and nearly four hours the second time. Arguing with the police and at- 
tempting to exercise any civil rights proved fruitless. This was the first nagging Or- 
wellian feeling that was reinforced over the week of demonstrations. The police were a 
State in themselves, and there was obviously no respect for the role of any other law in 
their actions. Fear was starting to stalk the streets, encircling the meeting of the cabal of 
world power. All the same, we kept filming, to record the historic event. 

FoUowdng a heavy day of rioting and police brutaHty, in which demonstiator Carlo 
Giuliani was shot and killed, I headed back to the Indymedia Center. Afl:er the shooting, 
the tension was rising, along with paranoia about police repression. People began to 
leave both the Indymedia Center and Genoa. There was much discussion of what to do, 
but no firm consensus was reached. Many people made the decision to leave indepen- 
dentiy, to such an extent that at the Indymedia Center our numbers were cut in half as 
the night wore on. More reports of potice movements came in. Some protesters threw 
stones at a police car outside the IMC, which only heightened the tension and paranoia. 
We held a meeting to try to decide what to do with the video material and ourselves if 
the police did raid, which came to no conclusion. So Maria and I decided on our ovra 
emergency plan: to hide out on the roof in a water tower. 

At midnight, there were shouts that police were coming. I looked out the window 
and was unable to see anything, but people started running around grabbing things 
and barricading doors. I ran to find Maria, and reminded her about the hiding place on 
the roof I had checked out earlier. She grabbed the tapes and equipment and headed 
off to the hiding place. Looking out a vdndow, I could not see any police around the 

Independent Media 

front door, so I shouted this information to the people blockading the door, trying to 
calm the situation. 

I went up to the roof and filmed the carabinieri (Italian police) breaking into the 
school building opposite our building. Things were getting out of hand across the street: 
a pohce van smashed through the front gate, and the police began breaking windows 
with chairs and smashing down the doors with tables they found in the courtyard. Wor- 
ried for my safety and for the safety of the video I had just recorded, I decided to head 
back downstairs to see if the police were coming after those of us in the IMC building 
as well. 

Everything seemed calm down at the IMC. I wondered whether the police were go- 
ing to invade this building. I decided to go flirther down and check. After two flights 
of stairs, 1 turned a corner and came face to face with a policeman dressed in fiill body 
armor, his truncheon drawn, panting his way up the stairwell. I turned and flew up two 
flights shouting, "They are in the building!" I scrambled past the barricaded door to the 
IMC and up to the roof Dodging the spotlight from the circling helicopter, I headed 
over to the window looking upon the water tower and lowered myself out, whispering, 
"Maria, it's me." No answer. Creeping in the darkness to the water tower, using only the 
infrared beam of my camera to light my path, I made my way down through the corridor 
of water tanks. I kept whispering "Maria, are you there," and started to panic that she 
was not. A small and frightened voice finally said back to me, "Turn that light off." She 
was hiding in the space behind the last water tank. 

We waited. She had brought a bottle of water and supplies. We talked about what we 

would do if the police came to our hiding place in the water tower. Would they come in 

and search? Would they throw tear gas in.^ Would they smash our equipment and break 

Independent Media ^^'^ bones? All of these possibilities were very real. Meanwhile, the helicopter circled 

3S6 very low, its spotlight lighting up the water tower, the propellers shaking the building. 

The screaming went for what seemed Hke hours. Maria remiembers, "I was sure 
there were people being murdered. It was not just screaming in pain, it was screaming 
in fear of death. So I sat there waiting for my turn to scream. Then the noises mingled 
into a frantic, maddening mixture of screams of fear, shouting of angry cries of "As- 
sassini," ambulance sirens, and helicopter motors just above our heads. Suddenly, we 
heard noises of movement outside. Police were searching the roof We kept very quiet 
and still for nearly four hours. When the helicopter finally disappeared, we dared to exit 
the water tower." 

We met other survivors of the raid wandering across the rooftop in a daze. Grabbing 
our camera, we interviewed two English girls who had been in the Indymedia Cen- 
ter during the raid. Then we headed downstairs to survey the damage: doors smashed 
open, computers dismembered, hard drives ripped out and monitors smashed. Across 
the street, much worse was waiting. Blood covered the floor, congealing in puddles and 
sprayed upon walls. Trails of blood led into corners, clothes lay around in disarray, per- 
sonal belongings covered the floor specked with bloodstains. Dazed people were search- 
ing through the piles as local reporters stood together in clumps. Up the stairs, bits of 
skin and clumps of hair stuck to the walls along a trail of broken doors and hasty bar- 
ricades. The police had ransacked cupboards and overturned desks, searching all the 
places where someone could have hidden. Heads had been bashed against walls and the 
smeared bloody handprints left a distinct smell in the building. The carabinieri had left 
their mark. We escaped with the footage of it all, and it spread all over the world. 

Independent Media 

Media, Mainstream 

How to Write a Press Release and 
Talk to the Mainstream Media 

Whatever your feelings about the mainstream press, chances are that sooner or later you 
will be involved in something where you either want to draw or have drawn — desiring it 
or not — mainstream media attention. Once that happens, it's not a question of how you 
feel about participating in the society of the spectacle, but of how you will handle its at- 
tentions. It's surprising that people vidll spend weeks setting up a Reclaim the Streets or 
a banner drop, will plan legal support, medical emergency support, escape routes, and 
even the after-party, but will not do the basics to protect their control over the message 
they want to get out. Whether you like it or not, in the world of mainstream media it's 
spin or be spun — or duck out of sight. 

IngrcdlBttts Press contact list 

Dictionary or spell check 
Computer WITH internet access 

Fax machine 

An articulate and level-headed 



Know t/ie Enemy 


It is useful to bear in mind that the reporters you will be dealing with are eerily Hke you 
in many ways. They don't trust you; they are fully prepared to believe that you are lying; 
they hate to be told they can't do something or go somewhere. They are persistent and if 
need be they will scam, lie, and charm their way to what they want. They've got axes to 
grind and their axes are by no means yours. Be forewarned. 

The first questions any group should ask itself as it plans its approach to the media are: 
Do we want press attention? If so, why do we want press attention? and When do we want 
press attention? 

Do we want press attention? A lot of actions are at base an attempt to manufacture news. 
If you are planning a demonstration, a Reclaim the Streets, an important Critical Mass, 
or a banner drop you may want to increase its audience by drawing press attention- — -and 
even if you don't want to draw attention you probably will. By the same token, if you 
are doing something completely open and aboveboard that makes you part of the wider 
community — -setting up a free breakfast program, for instance, or opening a community 
space — you probably want people to know about it. On the other hand, however, there 
are times — when you are, say, breaking into an abandoned building or holding an action 
camp in the middle of the woods- — when you don't want press attention and should even 
take steps to guard against it. It's best to know ahead of time which is which. 

Why do we want press attention? The answers to this question may seem obvious until 
people in the group start to talk about it, and then wildly different views may emerge. 
Some people feel that mainstream press attention helps to widen the circle and change 
people's views; otitier people feel that the press is by definition manipulative and should 
be treated as hostile and dangerous. Both are right, of course, but it saves a lot of trouble 
when everyone in the group is telling essentially the same story. In preparing for contact 
with the press, make sure you understand at every step of the way what you want to get 
out of it, what benefit your project will gain fi-om the attention. Chances are, the press 
will be looking for the most sensational angle; you can decide whether you want to give 
it to them. Say, for instance, you want people to know how angry you are about some- 
thing: by aU means mask up and yell. If, however, you are trying to get across a complex 
point about how IMF policies impact local migrant workers, it might be best not to wave 
molotov cocktails and shout "Fuck you!" 

Becalm the Media 

Mainstream Media 

Reports to the media about 
fictitious anarchist plots can result 
in entertaining spectacles of police 
heavy-handedness. For example, if 
you can use false news reports, tip- 
offs, and websites to instigate a media 
feeding frenzy about how anarchists 
are infiltrating the governors' 
conference, the police may impose 
inconvenient security measures, or 
even raid some bigwig's hotel room in 
the middle of the night.- 

^True story! 

When do we want press attention? The answers to this question can be broken down to 
before, during, and/or after. 

Before: If you are planning a conference or big demonstration and are hoping for pub- 
licity ahead of time, it's best to give the press at least two weeks notice; you may want to 
send out a series of press releases and make some phone calls to keep interest up. Also, 
keep track of the deadhnes for free events listings in local papers, and send stuff in when 
it is appropriate. If a speaker or performer is coming to town, see if he or she might be 
available for a phone interview and make that offer to the press. 

During: If you are planning a surprise action, you can send out a press release the 
night before or early that morning; if you think you might draw a brutal police response, 
it might not be a bad idea to have the TV cameras already rolling when the plastic 
handcuffs come out. If you draw police attention, the press is pretty sure to follow the ac- 
tion anyway whether you invite them or not, so you should have a press statement ready 
to hand out and a press liaison ready to answer questions and provide sound bites — that 
is, unless you beheve it really doesn't matter what your action looks like in the news. 

After: Once you are yesterday's news, it is much more difficuh to draw press atten- 
tion, but there are times — an ongoing court case, for instance — when you might really 
like to stay in the headlines. Keep in touch with reporters who write sympathetic or at 
least intelligent stories. Most especially keep up good relationships with the alterna- 
tive press, who will often be much more receptive to covering something without wait- 
ing for a sensational news hook — that means alternative newspapers, public access 
TV talk shows, Indymedia, low-powered FM community radio stations, and outlets 
that serve a special community (African-American or Spanish-language newspapers, 
for instance). 

Mainstream Media 

It's worth the time it takes to put together a good press contact hst and keep it current. 
Include on the list all the television stations, daily newspapers, weekly newspapers, and 
a selection of radio stations (especially NPR stations and coEege radio stations) in your 
area. Look in the yellow pages for listings, then check the websites of places you want 
to reach. Most of them will have directions on how to send in press releases; put the 
phone numbers, fax numbers, and email addresses they provide on your list. Familiar- 
ize yourself with daily newspapers, and note the names of reporters who cover the beats 
that might be useful to you (environmental, court reporting, etc.); look for regular col- 
umnists who might be interested in the things you're interested in. Newspaper websites 
will list email addresses and phone numbers for individual reporters and editors. If you 
can't find all the information you need online, call and ask. 

Press Contact List 

Reporters get dozens of press releases every day. Yours will catch their attention if it is 
clear and easy to read and has something to say. Try to think like a journahst when you 
write your release: start with what, who, where, and when, and then give a clear and 
concise why. Leave the inflammatory rhetoric, wild unsupported claims, and angry rants 
for later — ^if you can't entirely let them go, you can put them in as a direct quote. Here's 
the formula: 

1. In the upper left-hand comer write for immediate release, and underneath write 
any contact information you can give — name, phone number, email address, website- 
Leave this information ofl'only if you want strict anonymity. 

2. Give the release a title that sounds like a newspaper headline: conference on 


it short, simple, and informative. 

3. Load as much information as you can into the first paragraph: "Antiwar activists 
from around the state will gather on the State House lavm on Saturday, February 15 to 

The Press Release 

Mainstream Media 

You can get free press passes 

to attend concerts and similar 

events simply by approaching the 

promoters as a representative of 

the media- — you'll probably get 

more privileged treatment than any 

of the paying customers. A press 

pass might also help you get past 

security, or could bolster your cover 

story if you need to cross national 

borders in an emergency. 

Mainstream Medici 


protest the Bush administration's poUcies in Iraq. The demonstration, which has been 
endorsed by X, Y, and Z, will begin at io:oo a.m. and will include a march down Main 
Street followed by an open forum. Organizers are predicting that the protest, part of a 
worldwide day of action, will draw a crowd of several thousand demonstrators . . ." 

4. Use the next few paragraphs for spin (try to keep the press release to one page if 
you can). This is where you build your argument, create context, and tell reporters why 
they should care: "Hegemonic Industries, target of the protest, is the world's third larg- 
est biotechnology company. It recently announced that it has developed a new strain of 
'terminator seeds' that it plans to market in Africa despite objections from an interna- 
tional coalition of small farmers. Terminator seeds, banned in Europe by the European 
Union, have been called 'a Pandora's box,' by the Council of Concerned People. 'Hege- 
monic Industries is putting us on a slippery slope,' said Mary WoUstonecraft, a profes- 
sor of biology at Local University and a member of the Council of Concerned People. 
'The world's food supply is not a plaything for irresponsible giants.'" Quote someone 
who sounds hke an expert if you possibly can— the quote itself doesn't really even have 
to make sense, so long as the quoted person has some credentials that apply to the situ- 
ation. Note that credentials can be pretty flimsy if that's all you've got — "long-time com- 
munity activist," "member of a local anti-police brutality group," "dog owner." There's 
no explanation for why it works, but for some reason it does. 

5. Stay away from outright lies, at least outright lies in which you can get caught, and 
unsupportable claims. If you promise reporters a major demonstration, then you'd bet- 
ter deliver a major demonstration^ — a dozen of your friends beating on plastic buckets is 
just going to make them cranky. They may cover your protest on the nightly news, but 
they'll make you look like fools. 

6. Check, double-check, and triple-check everything before you send your press release 
out. Make sure everything is spelled correctly and that every sentence makes sense. Make 

sure you have included all the basic information of what, who, when, where, and why — 
and that you've gotten it right. Get someone else to read it before you chck "send." 

7. Most reporters accept email press releases, but in some cases you wall just have to 
fax your release in. Important: If you are sending out a press release about a covert action, 
send it from a neutral computer, or most especially from a neutral fax machine (Kinko's 
has fax machines; so do many truck stops). Faxes automatically include the phone number 
from which they are sent; best not to have it be the phone number of your safe house. 

So you've gotten the TV cameras to show up, and the newspaper reporters have their note- Breaking News 

books out. Now what? This is where your level-headed press liaison comes in. Her job is 

to make the reporters' job easy, but not too easy. The press liaison should have extra copies 

of the press release, a printed statement that gives more information if that is appropriate, 

and anything else that will keep the spin going in your direction. It is often helpful to have 

agreed ahead of time who will be available for interviews and sound bites: you can't stop 

reporters from talking to whomever they want, but you can certainly steer them toward 

the more articulate and informed members of the group. The liaison should particularly 

keep an eye out for reporters who seem to be singhng out the youngest, angriest, or pxmk- 

est people in the group — that's a pretty clear signal that he or she is going to start the story: 

"A small group of self styled anarchists gathered at the courthouse today to make noise 

and chant slogans. The group, part of the infamous Black Bloc, the organization credited 

with widespread violence at recent protests, was made up of mostly young people wearing 

dirty overalls and sporting a wide array of tattoos. While their message was unclear, their 

anger was not: 'This [expletive] sucks!' shouted one masked protester, who gave his name 

only as Dogmeat. Pohce, who could have been performing heroic rescues elsewhere but 

had to waste their time guarding the courthouse instead because a bunch of dirty, spoiled. Mainstream Media 

middle-class white kids have too much time on their hands and don't have to get a decent 363 

job as long as Daddy foots the bill, were commended for their restraint." If it looks as 
though that's the way things are going, it's perfectly QRto go over and tell the reporter 
that you have Hned up an interview with a nun or a kindergarten teacher or a veteran of 
the Lincoln Brigade (obviously you should actually have done so!) and offer to escort him 
or her to where the interviewee is waiting. At all costs get him away from Dogmeat. 

Be Interesting A sound bite, whether it's on videotape or in print, is just that: a very small forkful of 
information. Your message won't make it into print if it's weighted down with grandiose 
generalities and meaningless statistics. Choose two or three points and stick with them, 
and present your points without shouting, crying, or swearing. At the same time, don't 
feel that you need to fill in the shades of gray — the victim of police brutality you are 
championing may indeed have been a bigamist or have passed a bad check, but it's not 
your job to point that out: the point you want to make is that he was unarmed and not 
committing a crime at the time he was shot. The biotechnology company you are target- 
ing may indeed fund community playgrounds, and the CEO may be a really nice guy, 
but that's beside the point if they are putting fish genes in the tomatoes. You want to tell 
a story that could be written on a 3 "X5" index card; let the reporter dig up her own dirt. 

Be Boring On the other hand, there are times when you don't want any press at all If you look as 
though you've got something to hide, if you act hostile, if you put your hand over the cam- 
era lens or give a reporter the finger, you're only going to whet her appetite. Say you are 
at a convergence and an SUV full of camera people and on-air reporters pulls up. This is 
the moment when the press liaison puts on her other guise as someone so colorless and 
dull that the reporters lose interest and leave of their own accord. She should show her 
Mainstream Media willingness to answer questions, but give the most benign and long-winded answers she 
364 can, sort of anti-sound bites. Slow the process down — if the reporters ask for access, the 

press liaison (who clearly identifies herself as such and not a leader) says that your group 
does not have a press policy yet and would have to decide that at a consensus meeting 
which won't be held until the evening, but that she would be happy to answer questions 
in the meantime. Treat inflammatory questions Ughtly and answer them with a friendly 
helpfulness. "Why yes, I know that some of the people here do identify as anarchists. 
Do you know the historical roots of the term 'anarchism'? Well, ..." If need be, answer 
the question you wish the reporter asked, not the one he or she actually asked. Q: What 
are you people doing here? A: Our concern is with the spread of corporate globalization, 
which is destroying the environment and decimating Third World economies. Q: Are 
you terrorists? A: We are trying to spread our message through a series of puppet perfor- 
mances and music shows. In particular we support the efforts of indigenous people to 
control access to water and native medicinal plants, Q: Who is the leader of your group? 
A: Our philosophy is based on the principles of consensus and non-hierarchical organiz- 
ing. Q: Why won't you let me come in and film your camp? A: We are here to express 
our concern with the spread of corporate globalization, which is destroying the etc., etc. 
Remember you've got more to lose than the reporter does— all she has to do is make you 
angry and she's got a story, but it's not the story you want out there. Be boring. 

Indymedia: Most sites have an open wdre where anyone can post stuff; many have cal- 
endars as well. Get to know members of the local Indymedia collective {or become one 
yourself), and let them know what your group is up to. 

Email: Rewrite your press release so it's a little less dry, and send it out to everyone 
you can think of with the heading Please Forward And Post Widely. Don't abuse your 
friends or your listservs, but take advantage of the technology whenever you can. 

Links: Get your story on a website, or put up your oviTi website, and get as many other 
sites to link to it as you can. 

Don't O\^erlook the Obi^ious 

Mainstream Media 

Mental Health 

If you are experiencing a breakdown at this moment, skip to the section entitled "Crisis." 

It is important to break the silence surrounding the struggles many of us face with the 
states of being commonly characterized as mania, depression, schizophrenia, panic dis- 
order, and post-traumatic stress disorder. We need to establish networks of support and 
guidance for those who are suffering in these ways and are understandably distmstfiil 
of the psychiatric industry. 

There are no correct or incorrect ways to develop a healing process. My experience, 
like yours, validates itself. I do not claim to be an authority on these matters, nor do 
I believe in institutional diagnostic treatment for mental and emotional problems. I 
have lived and am living through what I write about, and I offer the strategies that have 
helped facilitate my healing. Compare everything here to your own experience and see 
what resonates with you. 

Instructions When I'm at my worst, I can't feel my limbs. My skin goes to sleep; I only experience 
Your Body sensation if 1 really concentrate. I totally separate my mind from my body. When I'm 
in that place, 1 eat nothing but sugar, I never drink water, I seldom move, and I barely 
even notice — the lack of awareness just feeds itself So many people in our society live 
this way. The behavioral patterns of self-neglect and dissociation from our bodies that 
many of us are taught from birth are reinforced by depression, and vice versa. We have 
^66 to break these patterns. Our bodies need us! We must come back to ourselves. 

A reintegration of mind and body must be the first step in a healing process. Many 
of us envision methods of healing consisting of hours of introspective writing, intimate 
conversations with trusted friends, crying, screaming, laughing, dancing, exorcism 
through art and music — but we can't do any of these things if we don't eat. And often, 
no one ever taught us how. 

There has been a lot of research done about how different diets regulate neural-chem- 
ical and hormonal activity, and there are books in which you can read about this. Learn- 
ing how to nourish your body is a conscious process that demands full-time commit- 
ment. It can actually be fun to look inward and notice how each different kind of food 
makes you feel — it's a way to get to know yourself that most people never think of trying. 
Your body has likes and dislikes, just as your mind does. 

It can be difficidt to meet all your nutritional needs through dumpster diving (see 
Dumpster Diving, pg. 219). One solution to this problem is government food assistance. 
Food stamps are issued and regulated by federal, state, and local governments; if you are 
in a low-income bracket, you are eligible for food assistance. If you live collectively, you 
can get most of your produce through dumpstering or from local farmers (see Unem- 
ployment, pg. 576), and have one person apply for food stamps to provide for the house's 
nutritional needs that can't be served by other means. If this person exceeds the income 
limit and gets cut off, another person can take this role, or more than one person can 
and you will live with great bounty and much rejoicing. 

A few more tips on eating. Don't work for six hours, realize you haven't eaten, and 
then gorge yourself really fast. Don't get famished, fill your belly, and fill it up again as 
soon as there's a litde room in it. It really is true what they say: multiple small servings, 
eaten slowly and chewed thoroughly Extract every drop of nourishment from each bite. Mental Health 
Don't forget to make it taste good. 367 

Another important way to re-inhabit your body is exercise. All you have to do is get your 
heart rate up, break a sweat, and sustain it for twenty minutes. It doesn't matter what you 
do. You could take a hard bike ride, get a good pair of shoes and try some combination 
of walking and running, dance alone in your room, go for a vigorous hike, play drums, 
whatever. You v^U have so much more physical, mental, and emotional energy you won't 
even know what's going on. For this reason, it's probably best to do it first thing in the 
morning: it wakes you up, switches your system on, and gives you a feeUng of vitality. 

I can't write about health and wellness without mentioning yoga. As a practice of be- 
ing present in your body yoga is indispensable. It retrains your entire system, corrects 
bad alignments, builds strength and flexibihty, even teaches you how to breathe. Yoga 
schools often have free introductory classes, so you can learn a few postures and practice 
at home. You can get books on yoga, but it's best to learn from someone with a little 
experience, because if you learn a posture wrong and do it a lot you can seriously injure 
yourself The principle of holism is a big part of yoga; it trains us to reintegrate body, 
mind, and spirit into one whole being. 

One more thing about reintegration: if you work, try to find a job that allows you to 
be outside using your body. Those of us who were brought up middle-class have been 
conditioned to believe that mental work is for the evolved and physical work is for the 
underlings. In addition to perpetuating class oppression, this belief encourages us to be 
even less present in our bodies. You can build trails for the parks department; you can 
do freelance construction or painting or landscaping; you can work at organic farms or 
be a migrant laborer. You'll learn your body's limits — believe it or not, most people never 
do! — and you'll exhaust yourself, which can feel really good. Even if you have to be out in 
the cold and the rain, it can feel more fiilfiUing than waiting tables, or making fancy coffee 
Mental Health d^nks for rude yuppies, or selling your plasma. Please don't sell your plasma. What a 
268 grotesque example of an exploitative industry literally sucking the life out of the poor! 

I have only recently discovered the power of lists. Most people I have talked to about Lists 
managing depression have a really hard time just taking care of day-to-day tasks. Mak- 
ing a hst of things I have to take care of really helps everything seem less ovenvhelming. 
Get one of those little writing pads and carry it with you wherever you go. Make a "to 
do" list each week. When you finish an item on the list, put a line through it — this is so 
gratifying. If you don't get everything on your hst taken care of, just transfer the leftovers 
to the next list, but take the time to make a fresh list every week. If I look too much at a 
list I can never seem to finish, it makes me feel more depressed. It reinforces my belief 
that I can't ever get my act together, and then, of course, that belief manifests itself in 
reality. The notepad itself is a great tool. You can also use it to write down those crazy 
ideas and fleeting fantasies you dream up when you're gardening or working or walk- 
ing around in the rain. You can use it to vmte haikus about that suicidal squirrel that 
always waits until a car is about to come before it darts across the street with an acorn in 
its mouth. You can draw little sketches of all the weird people on the bus. After a while 
it becomes a really familiar and reliable way to interact with your environment and be 
present in your lived experience. 

More on fists: write down everything you can think of that is beautifiil, that makes you 
feel alive, or that you simply like. It's so easy for us to forget these things when we're in our 
lows, and just naming them can help bring them back into our lives. Here are a few of the 
things on my list: moments of total silence on a city street; freshly opened lilacs; the smell 
of old books; drinking water when I'm really thirsty; cobalt blue glass; really good letters; 
the color of my skin under a fijll moon; wind; the color green, deep, deep green; cool velvet 
on my ears and cheeks; the smell of sheep; fresh, clean socks. This is the comfort food of 
my life and I had more or less forgotten about it, all of it, until I wrote it all down. 

In addition to the list of things to live for, compose a list of actions you know will help Mental Health 
to pull you out if you're in a bad way. This could include anything from taking a walk }6g 

around your neighborhood to eating a good meal or spending time with your dog. Give 
copies of this hst to your close friends, so they have some idea of how to help you when 
you're in trouble. Another good tool to give to trusted allies is a list of warning signs 
that you're having a hard time. These could be subtle, like circles around your eyes from 
lack of sleep, or they could be blatant, such as not leaving your bedroom for days. Even 
if these symptoms seem obvious to you, it's important that you identify them to your 
friends, so they'll know to come to your aid when they first start to appear. 

There is one more list that you cannot do without: a list of the people you will contact 
when you are having a hard time. Compose this list when you're in a relatively level 
headspace; if you try to do it when panic is asphyxiating you or you're paralyzed by 
depression, you will have a very hard time thinking of anyone, and this will make you 
feel ten times worse. Keep this list accessible — laminate it with packing tape and stick 
it to your phone or bathroom mirror, make a few copies in case you lose one. Even if it 
doesn't sound important now, believe me, it will be. 

Create ! This almost goes without saying, but people who struggle with depression or other men- 
tal and emotional challenges can be gifted with tremendous creative energy. Perhaps 
when everything else seems totally out of control, people naturally gravitate to those 
things that can still be given order: words, notes, colors, shapes. When you are having 
a hard time, focusing on creative pursuits can be tremendously therapeutic. If you can 
shift your concentration from your feelings of panic and paralysis to arrangements of 
language, sound, image, or movement that express these feelings, this can enable you 
to regain your balance and your agency. Don't force this, or let your self-image come to 
hinge on your creative production — everyone gets writer's block, everyone experiences 
Mental Health different phases of creativity — ^but don't underestimate its power, either. 

This is the best method I can think of to deal with a panic attack or similar situation. It Crisis 
is what I wish someone had told me to try when 1 was collapsing under the weight of 
fear and despair: 

i) Breathe. Put your right hand on your belly and breathe into it deeply, feeling it ex- 
pand. Now exhale for twice as long as you inhale. Count the seconds if you like. This will 
bring your heart rate to a steady pace and will keep your system from getting overloaded 
with oxygen. Repeat this process. Stay conscious of your breathing. Remember: if you're 
still breathing, you're still alive. 

2) If you are not at home, if you are at a show or a restaurant or are traveling and are 
in common space at a stranger's house, quietly leave the room. When there are lots of 
people around me and I feel the way you're feeling, it generally makes it worse. If you're 
with a friend, ask them to come with you; if you're alone, that's OK, too. Go out to the 
yard or into an empty room, perhaps the bathroom, somewhere you won't attract a lot 
of attention and where you are not in physical danger. Don't move very far. Don't cross 
any streets. 

3) Now, come back to your body. You might not be able to feel your limbs, or your skin 
either. This is a reasonable response to fear, but returning awareness to your body will 
do a lot to make you feel safe. If you have someone you trust close by, ask them to hold 
you, very gently Focus on their arms supporting you, keeping you safe. If you're alone, 
wrap your own arms around yourself. 

Sit down somewhere, a soft place if you can find one, and slowly, gently, rock back 
and forth. Your body remembers this from when you were a baby and it will comfort you 
now just like it did then. Keep breathing, exhahng twice as long as you inhale. 

If you are still feeling disconnected from your body, close your eyes and imagine you 
are filling yourself back up again. Imagine a warm, white light pouring into your feet ^^^^^j ^^^^^^ 
and fiUing you up, moving through your legs, up your torso, into your shoulders — keep 371 

breathing — down your arms and into your hands, up your neck, into your face, all the 
way up to the top of your head. Now you are full. Rock gently back and forth until the 
rhythm naturally slows itself, until you are still and safe. Keep breathing, exhaling twice 
as long as you inhale. 

4) If you're alone and still having a really hard time, find your list of people to call 
when you feel like this. If one doesn't answer, call the next person, and then the next 
one. Go down the list, all the way down and back up to the top if necessary, until you 
reach someone. Tell them exactly what's going on with you. 

5) Don't fight it. I cannot stress enough that the only way to get through difficult 
feelings is to let yourself feel them. Trying desperately to hold at bay everything raging 
inside you will only intensify the storm. You must move through these feelings. Don't 
deny the experience, acknowledge it for what it is. Name it: "I feel really scared right 
now," "I feel like the walls are closing in on me," "I feel like I'm sinking." 

And just hang out with it. Don't let it consume you, don't let it be everything that you 
are. Recognize it for what it is, a feeling, and then let it move through you. Soften into 
it and be with it and it will pass through ten times more quickly and cleanly than if you 
clench onto it. 

tf You're Experiencing a 

Mental Health 

If something in your life causes you to experience an emotional or biochemical shift, 
or the memory of a serious trauma begins to be released, the result can be emotional 
fragility, deep depression, and generalized anxiety and suspicion. If you are undergoing 
this, you may feel as though you are falling apart. 

The aforementioned guidelines can help you maintain your overall health and well- 
being, and can bring you to a better understanding of your natural rhythms and cycles. 
At the same time, it can also be unhealthy to focus all your energy on preventing your- 
self from experiencing a breakdown. 

People come undone sometimes; this is inevitable and natural. Decomposition is a 
vital process in the cycle of life: everything falls, returns to the soil, is broken down, and 
becomes a part of life's renewal. We are no different — ^this pattern repeats itself over and 
over again throughout our lives. 

This might sound absurd, but there's a certain skill to falling apart — it is possible to 
do so gracefully and with care. This is not to suggest that the process of unraveling can 
be painless or easy, or that you should be able to keep your life from becoming a mess 
when you're going through it; but there are ways to come undone without losing sight 
of your needs or those of others. 

It is your responsibility first and foremost to be honest and real about what is going 
on with you. You may not know why you feel the way you do, but that isn't the most im- 
portant question. What you can know, and must always try to acknowledge to yourself, 
is what you are feeling. Really try to be inside the feelings that you have. I'm not talking 
about developing a romantic attachment to craziness, inhibiting your ability and will- 
ingness to heal. I'm talking about eroding the resistance you have to feeling what you 
feel. I really believe it isn't depression itself that v«:ecks people's lives, but rather their 
responses to it: their fear of it, their unwillingness to deal with it and the problems it 
creates. Be honest v^th yourself. 

The second task is to reach out to others. You may have already worked out an agree- 
ment with your trusted friends or housemates that they will act as support people for 
you when a situation like this arises. It is crucial that you have more than one person 
supporting you, especially if you are living with a romantic partner. It can be easy to 
develop patterns of insularity and dependence with a partner when times get tough, 
and if you put the entire weight of your recovery on one companion it can destroy the 
relationship, romantic or not. This stuff is hard work for everyone involved; don't forget Mental Health 
that your supporters are going to need to support each other, too. 373 

If you made lists of warning signs that you're not doing well and ways to help you feel 
better, these can be very helpful. When things are especially hard, it may be necessary 
for your supporters to be there for you around the clock. You must not refuse their help, 
even if it seems like they're making sacrifices for you— you'd do the same for them, 
wouldn't you? 

It's just as vital that you be honest with your friends as it is that you be honest with 
yourself Let them know what you're experiencing, how you feel, and the way their ac- 
tions make you feel. If they're being patronizing, let them know. They have made a 
commitment to support you, and any feedback you can give them will make the process 
easier for everyone. If you aren't able to talk, or if you really just need to be alone, try to 
express this to your supporters as best you can. Don't reproach yourself for not pulling 
your weight, or tell yourself you're being a bad friend. Forgive yourself— you haven't 
done anything wrong by feeling this way. You have to focus on getting through this, and 
that may be hard work enough. 

The capitalist machine does not permit those inside it to break down, ever. If some- 
one does, they are ejected from its ranks and excreted into a psych ward or a welfare 
line or some other prison. As anarchists, we should be working to create a world in 
which people are allowed to fall apart when they need to. If you are in a situation in 
which you are falling apart and you feel you are being emotionally neglected or shut off 
by the people who are supposed to be your supporters, if you have made it clear that 
you're going through something really serious and they are still not giving you the sup- 
port you need, look for it somewhere else as soon as you can. You might want to stay at 
a friend's house or with family for a while until you have built up your strength a little. 
If you remain in a bad situation when you are experiencing a breakdov«i, it can prolong 
Mental Health ^^^ process and worsen the pain. You owe it to yotirself to get through this smoothly 
374 and without guilt or resentment. 

Try to see your experience as something necessary and natural, as a kind of wake-up 
call, an opportunity to make positive, fundamental changes in the way you live your life. 
After all, it takes a total annihilation to find out what is truly indestructible. Ask for what 
you need. Be honest- Let yourself feel it. You will make it through this. 

As a supporter, the most vital tool available to you is empathy. Try to bring yourself back 
to a time when you were struggling like your friend is struggling now. Remember how 
it feels to need support. You will need patience, and a clear idea of what you can and 
cannot do, which you must communicate to your friend. 

It can get really hard and really scary; there will be times when you don't know what 
to do, or if there is anything you can do to help this person you care about so much. Do 
your support work in a team — this is the best way to preserve your own mental health, 
and it relieves a lot of pressure. You'll need breaks from the whirlwind, and time for car- 
ing for yourself. Meet with the other supporters and check in with each other: update 
one another on developments, discuss things that need to change. It can really help to 
be organized about this. 

As a supporter, some of your responsibilities might include getting your friend to eat, 
go outside, get enough sleep, and take care of himself in other simple ways. A person 
who is living through a breakdown can't be expected to have healthy habits; as healthy 
habits wiU help him get through this, you might have to be the one to initiate and insist 
on them, at least in the beginning. If your friend has made cards with advice on how 
to pull him out of despair, use them. You may need to take the initiative in getting your 
friend to see his counselor or go to yoga class. If he is on medication, make sure he takes 
his drugs at regular times each day; if he runs out, you may have to make an appoint- 
ment with a psychiatrist for him. Approach his family or a friend who's known him for 
years and ask how they've dealt vvdth situations like this in the past. 

if You Are Supporting a Friend 

Mental Health 

It is not appropriate for you to try to fix your friend — don't take away his agency like 
that. He has to fix himself, that's why he's falling apart in the first place. As a supporter, 
it is your job to create a safe environment for your friend to experience what he needs 
to, not to make his problems go away. 

Try to restrain yourself from judgment. Focus on your empathy, no matter how hard 
it gets. When things are difficult, remind yourself of your love for this person, of every- 
thhig he gives you when he is well enough to give. At the same time, be carefiil not to 
overextend yourself You will do yourself, the person you're supporting, and everyone 
else in your life a disservice if you take on more than you can handle. The part you play 
in his well-being should be a gift you give, not a burden you shoulder. Stay open and be 
honest, with yourself and everyone else, about your needs and limits. Keep the lines of 
communication open, especially if you're nearing the end of your rope. 

Medication This is a very sensitive subject among people deaHng with these problems, particularly 
those of us who have been through the psychiatric system. Some feel that psychoactive 
drugs are purely an oppressive tool of the State, others have no doubt they would have 
killed themselves had they not gone on medication, and are grateful for it; still others 
reject the idea that they need drugs to maintain mental clarity and emotional stability, 
while acknowledging the ways drugs have helped them reclaim their lives. It's a com- 
plex issue, one best not portrayed in black and white terms. 

It's true that psychoactive drugs are the first card drawn by the mental health indus- 
try, and often are seen as a suitable replacement for therapy lifestyle changes, and other 
forms of healing. This is typical of the tendency in Western medicine to treat only symp- 
toms, not addressing the root causes of problems. Many drugs can cause side effects: 

Mental Health emotional numbness, liver problems, nausea, insomnia, fatigue. Every individual's re- 
576 sponse to a given drug is unique. 

I believe medication is a potent tool to be used when appropriate and then discarded 
when no longer needed. The thing is, you have to work on healing if you ever want to get 
o£F medication. I've been told repeatedly by therapists and psychiatrists that I am like a 
diabetic in that my brain doesn't produce certain chemicals 1 need to survive, so if I stop 
taking my medication the result will be the same as for a diabetic who stops taking in- 
sului: I will die. Now that I have met people (including a diabetic, by the way!) who have 
used nutrition and a conscious lifestyle to regulate their various chemical imbalances, 1 
know that it is possible to live without my drugs, and am developing a program to end 
my dependence upon them. 

No one is entirely sure how most psychoactive drugs work. Psychiatrists will tell you, 
. for example, that some regulate the levels of serotonin in your brain; how, they don't 
know. One thing I can tell you from personal experience is that the drugs called SSRIs 
{Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors) are bad news. Tliey have a way of deaden- 
ing people, whitewashing their emotions, drastically altering their personalities. Their 
effects are very hard to predict. A few of the most common SSRIs are Prozac, Celexa, 
Zoloft, Effexor, Lexapro, and Paxil (which has a page-long hst of side effects and with- 
drawal symptoms, including "electric-feeling shocks throughout the body" and "scratch- 
ing sounds within one's head"). Keep in mind that almost every name-brand drug also 
has at least one generic version, so if you're being prescribed medication be sure to ask 
your doctor if the drug is an SSRI. If it is, ask for something else. 

Wellbutrin has worked really well for me when I've needed it. It's not an SSRI and it 
doesn't numb me or sap my energy the way Prozac did. I liken it to a pair of water wings: 
it keeps me afloat just enough to prevent me from drowning, and I have to do the rest 
of tiie work on my own. If I'm taking my medication, 1 don't have to worry that I'm go- 
ing to collapse on the floor thinking the walls are closing in on me, or hear voices in my ^^^^^^ ^g^,^^ 
head telling me to kill my lover, or become consumed by a delusional panic, certain that 377 

at any moment I'm going to die and anyone who touches me will die too. It took feeling 
things like that every day for a few weeks for me to agree to go back on my medication, 
just to stabilize. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. It came from a place of 
self-preservation, the closest I could get to self-esteem. 

I've been on Wellbutrin for a little over a year now, and have experienced no side 
effects. I still get depressed, I still feel all ray emotions. The difference is that instead of 
focusing all my energy on desperately keeping myself alive, I can step back, just a litde 
bit, and allow myself to live. 

So how do anarchists with no money get prescription drugs? I can think of a few 
ways. The first is to ask a trusted supporter who has a job that provides health insurance 
if she vrill help you hoodwink a psychiatrist. Get to know the details of her coverage 
and make sure the company will pay for psychoactive drugs before you do anything 
else. You'll need to know how much the deductible is (how much your agent will have 
to pay the doctor or pharmacist before the insurance company picks up the bill), and 
have this money available. Send your agent, insurance card in hand, to a psychiatrist 
or psychopharmacologist to report that she has been having problems. For all intents 
and purposes, she will be impersonating you. Coach your agent in advance about what 
kinds of problems you are having, including how much sleep you've been getting, how 
your moods have been fluctuating, what emotions you've been feeling, what you've been 
eating and how much, how you've been behaving socially, how well you've been able to 
concentrate, how you've been performing in a work environment, and how long this 
has been going on. You need a pretty specific set of circumstances to pull this off; it may 
sound far-fetched, but I know it can work because it's what I do to get my medicine. 

Another idea is to get on Medicaid, or whatever pubUc health plan is available in your 

Mental Health ^^^^^' assuming any are. You might be able to get help at a free clinic or community 

378 mental health center. If none of these resources are available to you, public hospitals 

have psychiatric walk-in clinics and emergency rooms (see Health Care, pg. 275), and 
some have crisis teams who will send a social worker or psychiatrist to your home. 

I believe in counseling because I believe in teachers and healers, and these are the roles Counseling 
served by a good counselor. It is strange to have a person in your life with whom you 
share the most intimate details of your life, to whom you expose the most frightened 
and broken and cruel places inside you, but with whom you have no outside social 
contact whatsoever. However, this can make the work you do together feel safer than 
it would if you were confiding in a friend. There are things I can talk about with my 
counselor, suicide being an example, that would be too loaded to discuss with many of 
my friends or any of my family. The sense of responsibility is different than in other re- 
lationships: if you stand up your counselor, you are not letting her down, only yourself 
The relationship is entirely focused on you and your healing, so you don't have to fear 
that you are demanding too much. 

My counselor is an amazing person. She listens to me, really listens. She doesn't let 
me get away with anything, but she never makes me feel attacked or violated. She's a 
queer mother who identified as an anarchist before I was even bom! And she's con- 
nected to an entire community of healers and old-school activists that I never even knew 
existed. She works on a sliding scale, as many good counselors will, and has a really 
sharp critique of the psychiatric industry and all its exploitative tendencies — and she 
treats me with respect, as a peer. 

In this society, we're never taught how to care for ourselves physically, mentally, 
emotionally, or spiritually. Healing is a skill we have to learn. We can wing it, teaching 
ourselves as so many anarchist musicians and bike mechanics have, but the stakes are 
higher. For those of us who suffer from serious chemical imbalances like manic de- Mental Health 
pression, or are trying to recover from intense traumas like sexual abuse, the risks we j/g 

take when we strike out on our own as if we already know how to heal wounds this deep 
are serious indeed. Counseling can equip us with tools to use in our own self-guided 
healing processes. 

Accept Yourself 

Mental Health 

Here's a crazy idea: what if all your problems, your manias and phobias and dysfunc- 
tions, are actually natural, healthy reactions to a manic, paranoid, dysfunctional world? 
What if you are not messed up after all, but totally normal, and the hard things you 
are feeling are exactly what you are supposed to be feeling under these circumstances? 
Instead of thinking of yourself as a broken thing that needs fixing, consider what a 
healthy person would do if he or she were feeling this way. Rather than enthroning 
your problems as permanent fixtures in your life, accepting yourself can actually help 
you feel more capable of self-determination and transformation. Besides, who says 
that everyone has to be the same to be healthy that mental health is a one-dimensional 
standard by which everyone can be judged? The idea that you are flawed, that you are 
cra2y while everybody else is sane, can be paralyzing; it also sounds suspiciously like 
capitalist propaganda. 

Talk of so-called self-improvement can reinforce the feeling, so prevalent in this so- 
ciety, that who we are and what we have is never enough. It's possible to become ob- 
sessed to an unhealthy degree with taking better care of yourself, being in better physi- 
cal shape, doing better introspective work, becoming a better communicator. The harder 
you press yourself, the further these ideals seem to recede before you. As in dieting and 
bodybuilding, the pursuit of perfect mental health can degenerate into self-abuse. 

Just as v^nriters, painters, and musicians experience creative blocks, all of us have 
times when we feel lost and jaded. Everything waxes and wanes; that natural pattern 
governs our lives just as it does the moon and ocean. If you feel stagnant, the worst 

thmg you can do is dwell on your perceived insufficiencies until you have entrenched 
yourself m total hopelessness. When something isn't working, don't beat yourself up 
about It; accept that it's not working for the time being, and focus on something else 

Sometimes the most healing thing you can do is simply be still, be present and in your 
body without any goals or intentions or pressures. Through te eyes of our competitive 
culture this can look like indolence, but in truth, it's impossible to do nothing Even if 
you re lying do™ not thinking or hatching plans or dreaming, things are sHU shifting 
and growing inside you. Sometimes what you need is to regenerate, to let yourself re^ 
and revive, and this can be as conscious a process as yoga or therapy or writing. 

Ultimately rnental health, like fireedom, desire, culture, and everytfiing else, is not pre 
due d individually, but by entire civilizations. No one can be whoUy sL in an insane 
world Discussion of mental heal& should not be limited to tfiose who identify as men- 
ta ly m: It concerns all of us, for everyone is crazy to some extent. Treating mental health 

should take care of the mad minority, creates a false dichotomy; in t™th, we aU can 
benefit from self-care and self-healing. 

If any of us are to heal, we have to heal our damaged, destructive society. StiU just 
as It can be unhealthy to fixate on self-improvement, we have to be careflil to provide 
for our own emotional health and well-being in the process of fighting the system that 
undemiines these, Capitalism is characterized by an inhuman emphasis on productiv' 
ity and efficiency; natarally we internalize this, and it infests our personal Uves and 
dreams and political projects. Overworking ourselves in our struggles to abolish work 
disregarding each other's needs in the heat of our battles against the heartiess establish^ 
ment, we replicate the virus of self-destiuction in our efforts to eradicate it 

The Healing Revolution 

Mental Health 

Mental Health 

Revolution is fought on two fronts, one outside, one inside. We won't be able to over- 
throw capitalism until we heal ourselves and each other, and we won't be able to finish 
healing ourselves and each other without overthrowing capitalism. Don't mistake the 
struggle in the streets for the only struggle, or misunderstand the time we must take to 
nurture ourselves and one another as a distraction from it. Healing is a form of revolu- 
tion, just as revolution is a form of healing, and doing what it takes to heal yourself can 
be truly revolutionary. 

Musical Instruments 

Seizing the means of production doesn't just entail occupying the factories; it also 
means getting familiar with the more modest machines that produce our living envi- 
ronments, like musical instruments. Nothing liberates you from the dictates of a given 
technology like learning how it works and reworking it. You can make your own drums, 
didgeridoos, upright basses, and drum machines, not to mention instruments not yet 
invented — and when you do, please let us know, so we can compare notes. Here are just 
a few examples of our latest discoveries in the field. 

We reverse-engineered this holy terror from a children's toy. The toy said "tweet, tweet!" 
Someone at the lab accidentally dropped a decimal point and now it says "MOO, MOO." 
If you can use it as a musical instrument, you are possessed of pure genius. However, 
anyone in the world can use a boviphonic ohm cannon to make raucous bass blasts ca- 
pable of calling cows (no shit!), rupturing internal organs (uh, not really), and adding a 
lovely ambiance to any public gathering. 

This recipe is extremely forgiving. Alter any measurements you want. Any alteration 
will produce different tones and notes. 

Plastic or sturdy cardboard tubes — The length determines the pitch (the longer the Ingredients 
tube, the lower the note), the diameter determines tone. We've used tubes anywhere 
from I to 4 inches in diameter and i to i6 feet long. ^g^ 

Boviphonic Ohm Cannon 

Comb the environment around you 

for places that have natural musical 

potential — the rail on the bridge that 

rings Vi^hen pounded, the train tunnel 

with the perfect echo acoustics. You 

can compose a symphony from these 

sounds, in a series of movements, 

and one evening take your friends 

from site to site to perform the 

symphony in sequence. 

Steel can — Food cans work well. The diameter of your can must be slightly smaller 

than that of your tube. 
Plastic bucket — The bucket should be sturdy. Its diameter needs to be at least four 

inches bigger than that of the tube you have selected. 
Plastic film — Almost any plastic works, as long as it doesn't have holes: try tarps, 

drop cloths, grocery bags, garbage bags. Some plastics last longer than others, and 

each will make a different tone. Plastics that are not stretchy, such as acetate, sound 

particularly nice and last long. 
Steel strapping — This is the stuff that is used to strap pallets of bricks. You can find it 

on construction sites, or just ask for some at a lumberyard. 

a few old bike inner tubes 
Waterproof glue 
Sandpaper of any grit — 

waterproof is best 
Small screws or rivets 


Screwdriver or rivet gun 
Gas stove or propane torch 
Tin snips 
X-ACTO knife 


Musical IntrLiments 

Cut a hole in the bottom of the bucket. Using pliers to hold the can, heat the rim, which 
must be of slightly smaller diameter than your tube, over a gas stove or propane torch 
until it glows bright red. Use the can to melt through the bottom of the bucket. If you 
fail to melt all the way through, you can finish the job with an X-acto knife. 

Shove the tube through the hole. It should fit tightly. The purpose of this is to create a 
reasonably tight seal between the bucket and tube that will still allow you to move the 
tube back and forth. If it is too tight, use the side of a razor blade to scrape the inside of 
the hole to the proper size. If the hole is slightly too large, wrap the area to be sealed with 
plastic packing tape until the joint is smooth and snug. 

Add stabilizers. Push the tube through the bucket, so you can work on the end without 
the bucket getting in the way. Using the tin snips, cut three lengths of the steel strap. 
The straps will keep the tube centered in the bucket while allowing it to slide a few 
inches forward and back; accordingly, each strip should be long enough to span from 
the outer wall of the tube to the inner wall of the bucket, with a few extra inches so it can 
be bent and attached at both ends. 

Attach the straps to the tube. The straps should be spaced evenly around the tube. 
Screw or rivet the straps in place on the tube, then bend the straps out like spokes. Now 
make another 90 -degree bend in the straps where the tube reaches the inside of the 
bucket, so you have tabs to fasten the straps to the bucket. 

Attach the straps to the inside of the bucket. Push the tube back so the end of the tube is 
even with the mouth of the bucket. The straps can be attached to the inside with rivets 
or screws. Drill the appropriate-sized holes through the bucket, and use them to fasten 
the straps {figure 13.1). Work from the outside of the bucket, so the outside remains as 
smooth as possible. The stabilizers make the boviphone more reliable and allow you to 
get cleaner, brighter notes, but they are not absolutely necessary. 

Install sandpaper. Glue strips of sandpaper to the outside of the top of the bucket, with 
the abrasive side facing out; it is best to rough up the plastic surface before gluing. The 
sandpaper provides friction that will help keep the plastic skin tight. Wait for the glue to 
dry thoroughly before applying any stress. 

Drill a hlowhok. You can either cut a hole with an X-acto knife or use a drill. A one- 
inch hole will do nicely. 

Make straps. Cut the inner tubes and tie them into two bands that fit very tightly 
around the top of the bucket. Do not put them on yet. 

Add the plastic skin. First, make sure the end of the tube is even with the mouth of the 
bucket. Cut a piece of plastic that is about a foot larger than the diameter of your bucket. 



Musical I ntm merits 

Place the plastic over the end of the bucket. Fold the plastic over the bucket, then add the 
rubber straps. The plastic should be held tightly between the straps and the sandpaper. 
Adjust the plastic so that it is flat and tight across the mouth of the bucket. Now gently 
push the tube forward so that the end of the tube seals tightly against the plastic skin 
{figure 13.2). 

Put your mouth to the blowhole and blow hard! 

Tips To produce lower notes, add length to the tube — ^but be warned, the longer your tube, 
the more air it takes to create and sustain a note. If you go low enough, use a foot pump, 
vacuum cleaner, or electric leaf blower to provide airflow. If you have access to a car, con- 
nect the exhaust pipe to the blowhole ... my friend, you will not be disappointed! If your 
plastic gives out when you use powered blowers, experiment with something tougher: 
blue tarp material, acetate, or rubberized fabric. 

Two-by-Four Marimba This is an easy-to-make, loud, tonal percussion instrument, perfect for parades, rock 

bands, and your Mad Max junkyard percussion kit. 

Ingredients A two-by-four String Foam rubber Drill 

Band saw — you can substitute a reciprocating saw like a Sawzall or a bayonet saw, but the 
blade needs to be longer than the vddth of a two-by-four (which is, of course, 3.5") 

Cut the two-by-four into different sizes, ranging from a foot to two feet long. 

Use the saw to remove the middle of the underside of the board. Depending on the 

Musical Intruments length of your two-by-four, leave two to four inches of unmodified board on either side 

386 of the chunk you remove. This should leave your two-by-four flat on top and curved 

underneath, looking like a bridge. Repeat this process with each of your lengths of two- 
by-four. These are your keys. 

Drill a horizontal hole across the end of each key. The hole should be big enough for 
string to pass through. 

Place the keys on the foam rubber in the order you want them. Sew each one in place 
by passing the string up through the bottom of the foam, through the end of a key, then 
back into the foam. Leave the string loose; the keys should be able to sHde around on the 
foam a bit. 

Bang on your marimba with sawed-oflf broom handles. 

You can make quite an impressive, 
arresting noise by shaking a large 
piece of sheet metal; these should 
be easy to find unattended at 
construction sites. 

When fixed to a surface, these little discs turn vibrations into a tiny signal that can be 
amplified by guitar amplifiers and P.A. systems. Tape them to your temples when you 
are eating. Glue one to the bridge of your acoustic guitar or bass. Swallow one and let 
the wires run out of your mouth to your amp while you digest this book. Stick one to a 
small, quiet percussion device. 

PiEZo Buzzer — You have most likely seen these things before. They are thin and flat 
brass discs about the size of a quarter. You see them inside telephones, where they act 
as speakers, microphones, and ringers; they also serve as speakers for musical greeting 
cards. If you can't scavenge one, it is best to order them. Radio Shack offers a wide 
assortment of them, but they all come encased in a plastic housing that is hard to open 
without causing damage; these also have an unnecessary circuit board attached. 

1/4" JACK — These can usually be scavenged from old guitars, stereo equipment, dead 
amps, mixers, or similar musical equipment— basically anything that uses guitar 
cords or 1/4" headphone jacks. They can also be found at electronics stores. 

Piezo Buzzer 
Contact Microphone 


Musical Intruments 

Flux-core solder — thin solid-core solder with an electronics Rux paste will also work 
Insulated wire — Stranded is better than solid wire because it is more flexible and 

easier to solder. Thinner is better; don't go too much thicker than the wires that are 

inside telephone cords. 
Soldering iron 


You can make drumsticks for your 

marching bucket band out of the 

wooden handles of discarded 

mops and brooms; tiiese are often 

easy to find, as they don't fit in 

many trash cans (figure 0.4). 

If the piezo buzzer comes with its own wires already on, solder these wires to the two 
leads of your 1/4" jack. If you have a piezo disc that has no leads, strip the ends of two 
wires and solder them to the two contact points that ought to be obvious on the disc. 
Solder quickly, avoiding heating up the disc too much. Discs are really delicate — you can 
expect to ruin a few before you get the hang of this. 

Mount both disc and jack securely to the item that is to be amplified. It is best to 
glue the disc directly on a surface. If that is impossible, use a tight rubber band. It is 
important to attach the mic firmly: it will pick up its own rattling if it isn't secure. At- 
tach your jack securely to a place where it will not interfere wdth vibrations. Plug the 
1/4" instrument cable into your device and an amplifier of some sort, and you should 
be in business. 

Piezo pickups are extremely sensitive. The signal is very crisp and tinny so you may 
want to play around with the EQ. When you get it sounding sweet, turn the little "master 
volume" knob on the front of the amp up to eleven and make friends and enemies dance 
and give up, respectively. 

Musical Intruments 

This bow will work on most any stringed instrument, q^mbal, or musical saw, and is Insttument Bow 
exceptionally easy to make. 

Glue A thin, flexible piece of wood the 


Drill A spool of thin monofilament 


Some dry pine sap for rosin — I get mine from a building downtown where a huge 
pine board perpetually leaks sap; you can also spot it bubbling from wounds in living 
pines. You want it to be a bit sun-dried, not runny or sticky. When it's dry, you can crack 
it off with a knife. 


Your piece of wood should be thin enough that it bends easily, but is not floppy. A sturdy 
wooden yardstick can work, but you'll probably want to cut it shorter. If you are using a 
softwood like pine, 1/4-inch thick by about 3/4-inch wide will provide plenty of spring. 
File a notch in each end of the wood, as shown. The notch should be about 1/2-inch 
v\dde, or as wide as the bowstrings will be. Drill a small hole in one end of the wood. Tie 
the fishing line through the hole. Start wrapping the line around the wood, the long way. 
When you wrap the line, keep it taut, with the bow slightly bent. 

As you wvajp, move from one side of tihie notches to the other. After you have vsnrapped 
one layer of line, apply glue to the two ends of the wood where the line wraps around. Apply 
enough to soak through the line to the wood. Continue wrapping so that each successive 
layer is submerged in glue. After you have built up a sufficient mass of line — about three 
layers — pass the end through the hole, tie it off, and add a litde glue for good measure. 

Before the glue dries, wedge some small pieces of wood between the bow and the 
bowstring at one or both ends so there will be more clearance. Pieces of wooden pencils 



Musical Intruments 

work well for this. Add more glue so these will be more likely to stay in place. Now set 
the bow aside so the glue can dry completely. 

Apply rosin to the strings, liberally. Try to avoid touching the strings; finger oil will 
prevent rosin from sticking or defeat the extra friction of the rosin, which is the whole 
point. Now play for us, won't you? 

Phone Ocarina Handset from an old-school rotary-dial or push-button telephone 
Ingredients Hand drill with drill bits of a few different sizes 



1. Remove the cord from the handset. 

2. Unscrew the mouth- and earpiece covers, and remove all the entrails: speaker, micro- 
phone, wires, plug jack and any pieces of foam. Save these for other projects, of course. 

3. Drill eight or fewer holes along the spine of the handset. Start at the mouthpiece end, 
where the jack is, and drill progressively larger and more wddely spaced holes down the 
length of the handset. Don't go so large that you can't cover a hole with one finger. 

4. Replace the mouthpiece cover on the end with the empty jack hole. If you like, re- 
place the earpiece. 

5. To play your homemade ocarina, seal off the little holes in the mouthpiece cover with 
the palm of one hand. Blow across, not into, the cord hole, just as you would blow across 
the mouth of a bottle. You can generate different notes by covering and uncovering 
different finger holes. 

Musical Intruments 

i) Walk into a fast food franchise, ask for a drinking straw, buy nothing. 

2) With a pair of scissors, make two slices in one end of the straw to form a point like 
this: =!====> 

3) Pinch the side of the straw near the other end and cut a hole in it — it doesn't have to 
be round, but your finger has to fit over it to close it completely. 

4) Repeat step three a bit higher. 

5) Repeat again until you don't want any more holes, or you run out of fingers or space 
on the straw. 

6) Roll your lips into your mouth to cover your teeth. 

7) Put the pointy end of the straw in your mouth. 

8) Cover aU the holes with your fingers. 

9) Blow into the straw and wiggle your fingers! 

The Strax 


The diddley bow is a simple stationary instrument that you can install anywhere you'd 
like to play. Drill a screw into the top and the bottom of a wall, door, or tabletop. Tie a 
guitar string or some similarly strong whe to both screws. Wedge pieces of wood under 
the string at both ends so the string becomes tight. Move the wood bridges closer to the 
screws to increase tension on the string. You can play a diddley bow with a pick, chang- 
ing notes by holding a chunk of metal or glass against the string hke a slide. 

Diddley Bow 


Musical Intruments 

Newspaper Wraps 

Ingredients Newspaper wrappers 

Optional Materials Newspaper dispenser key 



Instructions A newspaper wrap is a great way to get a message out and in the process lampoon the 
media who refuse to share the means to do so. It gives the lie to the rhetoric about 
freedom of the press by taking that freedom by storm from the cartel that monopolizes 
it — and simultaneously entertains, informs, and empowers witnesses. It gives the un- 
derdog leverage in social struggles, proclaiming: Don't think you can keep misrepresenting 
the facts — well hijack your channels of dissemination if you won't tell our side of the story. 

First, pick your target, accordting to your goals — is your wrap intended to front and 
thus confront a certain established newspaper, or is it an all-purpose broadside to wrap 
every paper in tovm? The former approach is more effective for subtle parodies, and 
provides an excellent opportunity for humor; if people begin reading your wrap v^dthout 
realizing it is not the "real" cover of the paper they picked up, they will at first accept 
what they see with the same attitudes with which they receive mainstream media re- 
ports — and the shock of figuring out they've been duped just might jerk them out of put- 
ting unqualified faith in any such paper again. The latter approach — making a wrap to 
go around every paper in town — is more straightforward, and at least has the advantage 
3^2 of being universally applicable, if ubiquity is one of your objectives. Your layout will vary 

according to your approach— the former option requires a much greater degree of preci- 
sion, of course, if the wrap really is meant to be mistaken for the object of your satire. 

You can do almost anything with the content: just think, what would you say to the 
world if you ran the newspapers? Or, for that matter, how can you reveal what the news- 
papers are really saying with every front page, how can you make the implicit explicit? 
Humor can help keep the as-yet-unconverted reading after their initial curiosity is sat- 
isfied, as long as it isn't so heavy-handed as to alienate them. Alternatively if you feel 
up for the challenge, you can try to make your content so convincing that it will not 
be recognized as a spoof, and thus precipitate a useful scandal around the resulting 
rumors, misinformation, and hysteria. It can help drive your message home to include 
as many local references as possible; better yet, you could illustrate some of the articles 
with, say, photos from recent actions or interventions, to emphasize the contestation of 
power that is taking place in your area. For example, if somebody managed to put some 
clever graffiti on a well-known, well-guarded public monument, but it unfortunately 
only stayed up for a day (as the local authorities were intent on not letting anyone see 
that such a challenge to their power was possible), a picture taken that day could make a 
lovely cover illustration for a newspaper wrap; many people take the media representa- 
tion of their home streets more seriously than their actual experience of them, and you 
can help them to feel they live in a liberated territory (or a police state, or a war zone) 
by capturing that moment in time. A photograph of a beating the poHce deny ever hap- 
pened would also go nicely on the front cover of a newspaper wrap. 

Find a local newspaper printing company. You'll want to use a false name in your 
dealings with them, just to be on the safe side. Most of the cost of newspaper produc- 
tion is in the start-up fees, so you might as well make a lot, unless you're so lazy the 
extras will just sit moldering somewhere until they are seized as poHce evidence. You 
can make a single newspaper sheet to simply go around the front, or a two-page spread 

You can confiscate the free 
newspaper dispensers that are full 
of real estate magazines, paint them 
with your own designs, stock them 
with radical literature, and return 
them to the streets. 

Newspaper Wraps 

You can establish an alternative news 

service in the bathroom stalls ofyour 

neighborhood — visit a selection of 

stalls in gas stations, office buildings, 

schools, libraries, and so forth every 

seven days or so to write up that 

week's unreported news. 

Newspaper Wraps 

to wrap the entire first section of the paper. Make sure you've got the dimensions right 
for your target(s) ! 

You won't need more than a couple of people to pick up the papers from the printer 
and chart the location of every newspaper dispenser in your town or borough, but you'll 
probably want to invite a couple dozen friends to join in the deploying — ^you'll have to be 
quick and numerous to get it all done in the brief window of time between the delivery 
of the day's newspapers and the hour people start picking them up. Papers are usually 
delivered around four in the morning, but you'll want to check this for yourself in your 
target area. The people dehvering them are generally folks just like you, with vehicles 
not unlike your own (no, not the one wdth the stenciling all over it), so rest assured — 
chances are you won't look out of the ordinary carrying out your mission. They go from 
box to box, putting in a special key that opens them, taking out the old newspapers and 
putting in the new ones; you'll do the same, using quarters to open the boxes if you 
haven't managed to snag or replicate the special key, taking out the unwrapped papers 
and putting wrapped ones in their place. The most efficient method is three people to 
a car: one driver, one clean-cut person to go to each machine and exchange the pile of 
unwrapped papers within for a pile of wrapped ones, and one maniac in the back franti- 
cally wrapping away. At the very end of the trip, you can go back to the first box, where 
you got your first pile of unwrapped papers, and put in the last wrapped ones. Needless 
to say, this process works best if you're wrapping just one brand of newspaper; if you're 
trying to hit every one of a number of different newspapers, and there isn't enough 
space in the back seat to keep several separate piles going at once, you can either divide 
up the different newspapers between different vehicles, or just take each pile of papers 
back to the vehicle to wrap before returning them. It's been known to happen that peo- 
ple have participated in newspaper wraps on bicycles, leaving each box jammed open 
while they wrap its papers nearby; this is less efficient, however, and may be riskier, as 

it requires two trips to each box — or one long stay at each, in full view. Whatever your 
method, chart your route so it'll be least likely that anyone will catch on to what you're 
doing until you're done. 

Bicyclists are best suited to going driveway to driveway, adding the wraps to individu- 
ally deHvered papers. Playing this role, they can round out the work of the drivers; in 
some areas, few people use newspaper dispensers, but if the wraps also appear in the 
front yards of the suburbs it will seem they are everywhere. If you can't hit every drive- 
way in the city, pick out a few important neighborhoods — and perhaps the driveways 
of a few significant people (say, editors at the targeted newspaper or rival newspapers, 
key players in the issues you're addressing, etc.). This can help ensure your action will 
achieve the notoriety and reaction it deserves— just be especially careful while carrying 
out this phase, so you don't get caught red-handed. 

Afterwards, if it won't attract the wrong kind of attention, your leftovers can be 
dropped off in coffee shops, dentists' waiting rooms, and so on. Congratulate youiselves 
on a job well done, and don't ever talk about such things again— until it's time to round 
folks up for the next activity. 

At the conclusion of the second war with Iraq, we decided to do a newspaper wrap 
to push the citizens of our liberal college town toward more radical responses to our 
tyrannical government. We composed a satirical text with local reference points and 
photographs, including a redecorated stop sign across the street from the town council 
building. It cost us a little over a hundred dollars to make a few thousand papers, and 
we collected near that amount in change for the dispensers, as well. 

We chose to spring into action the night before a well-attended downtown street fair, 
so our papers would be out during a period of especially high foot traffic. We'd soUcited 
volunteers through the usual channels, taking people aside at potluck dinners and soc- 


Newspaper Wraps 

You can undermine political and 

corporate campaigns by distributing 

literature, doorknob iiangers, and posters 

of your own making on their behalf, 

clarifying matters the public might have 

missed otherwise. Include their official 

contact information, and perhaps a link 

to a fake but believable webpage. 

cer games and so on. People were a little slow to show up at our convergence point, and 
we had to really hurry to get the routes divided up and set out in time. Six vehicles went 
out, two to three people in each, and a few pairs of bicyclists too; routes were chosen 
according to level of risk of the areas, level of experience of the participants, and distinc- 
tiveness of the vehicles. There were a few situations in which our delivery people were 
intimidated by police cars circling on their nightly beats, but every box in town was hit 
and nothing went wrong. A couple of hours later, the vehicles had all completed their 
circuits, and their occupants, on bicycles or on foot, were working on the driveways of 
the suburbs. 

The next day, we walked about and saw people everywhere gathered around copies of 
our newspaper, laughing and pointing things out. The paper we had focused most on 
wrapping printed a peevish complaint on the editorial page, citing some other examples 
of direct action around town that would never otherwise have gotten coverage! All in all, 
it seemed like such an easy and effective project that most of us felt that, were we able 
to raise the money, we should do it every weekend. 

Newspaper Wraps 

Non-Monogamous Relationships 

... or two! Well, don't expect this text to be of much assistance— every relationship is 
different, and there is no system, no perfect procedure, guaranteed to make any one "work." 
Besides— being non-monogamous, one might say, is about dispensing with protocol, not 
trying to make relationships "work" according to any standard: accepting them as they 
are and as they change. All the same, one can't deny that some approaches and behaviors 
tend to result in healthy dynamics, and some don't; and since most of us didn't grow up 
with many good examples of non-monogamous relationships to learn from, the more we 
discuss and compare our experiences the better-equipped we'll be to chart this unknown 
territory together. Shaking off conventional pair-bonding programming is nothing if not a 
first step toward being able to be good for others and help them be good for you. 

So You Want to Have a Non- 
Monogamous Relationship . . 

At least three people Ingredients 

The first thing to emphasize is that being non-monogamous is not a way to sidestep the 
need for honesty in a relationship. If anything, it's a way to promote honesty. Monoga- 
my, not in individual instances but as a monolithic expectation in a constraining culture, 
discourages honesty by punishing any desires or truths that fall outside the traditional 
romantic model. Non-monogamy is intended to open a space in which honesty is pos- 
sible, but it also depends on honesty to make such a space possible at all. 


Being f-fonest in a Dishonest World 


This is not to set a new rule, that all lovers must share everything with each other, 
detail by detail; but share whatever you agree to share, and be clear about what you 
need, too, including what you need to be sure you'll be able to be honest. The whole 
idea of being involved without attempting to impose a template upon your relations is 
to be able to be what you are without lies, guilt, or dissembling. All the same, many of 
us who grew up struggling in the monogamy model still retain all the bad habits we 
learned from it: dishonesty, shame, avoidance, fear. Even when we're in a relationship 
that provides room for our "dangerous desires," we tend to wnreck that space by not trust- 
ing it and thus losing the trust that sustains it. Push yourself to be honest, always — ^with 
honesty, you can have everything you want in the world, or at least all of it that the world 
can actually offer. If you can't be honest, try to work on that before you're involved deeply 
vrith others. Nobody should be involved with anyone that can't be relied on to share im- 
portant truths — especially frightening ones. 

Establishing Expectations 

Non-Monogamous Relationships 

Check in at the beginning of any relationship, or any interaction (like having sex for 
the first time) that puts the relationship on a new footing, about what your individual 
needs and expectations and comfort levels are, and make sure you've worked out a com- 
mon understanding of them before you go any further. This will save a lot of headaches 
later! If your needs change, or it turns out you feel differently in a situation than you 
expected you would, it's nothing to feel guilty about — ^but you'd do well to let your lover 
know about it. In fact, you'd probably do well to check in with your lovers occasionally 
regardless, just to make sure their feelings haven't changed without them recognizing 
or articulating it. 

It's probably just as common for lovers in a non-monogamous relationship to feel 
insecure about their longing for monogamy, or at least some of the reassurances it pro- 
fesses to offer, as it is for them to feel ashamed of their desires for others. It is important 

that we avoid developing a competitive culture of non-monogamy, in which people must 
feel shame for wanting anything "bourgeois" or "traditional." Everything, every desire 
and need, has to be respected, or else this is no revolution after all, just the estabHshing 
of a different norm. If it's important to you that you're non-monogamous, you may well 
have developed a insistent or even confrontational attitude about it, in the face of this 
unwelcoming society; make sure that this doesn't translate to you making others feel 
they must live up to some standard around you. Accept whatever others tell you about 
their needs supportively— they are doing you a favor by being up front with you. Maybe 
the differences in what you want mean you can't be involved in certain ways, at least for 
the time being. That's still better than making each other miserable, struggling to get 
each other to change or denying your needs for one another. 

The terms your relationship starts on will probably set the tone for it for a long time to 
come. Lovers who begin on shared terms of non-monogamy and successfully establish 
trust with each other will probably have little trouble maintaining a healthy non-mo- 
nogamous relationship for as long as both desire to. Lovers who start out in a monoga- 
mous relationship and decide to change the terms to non-monogamous, however, may You can spice up a first date by" 
well encounter difficulties, as their expectations and ways of feeling safe and loved may resolving to get in trouble with the 
already be tied to the question of the other partner's "faithfulness." Now, if you really authorities for something dreadfuify 
want to wreck a relationship, start it out on monogamous terms (or simply leave the ni^ht;7oXellyou!datlofyour 
issue unaddressed, so assumptions can develop unchecked by reality), then sleep with plan, of course. 
someone else, and afterwards tell your partner you want to be non-monogamous; for 
maximum destruction, don't even confide that you've slept with or are sleeping with 
someone else— let your partner discover it as a surprise. Obviously, this is not the way 
to go about having a healthy love affair. 

Non-Monogamous Relationships 

Handi'mg jealousy 

'"This is not an attempt to legislate 

for tliose wlio prefer anonymous, 

promiscuous encounters in bati^rooms 

and cruising parks — do what you want, 

proi>ided you lool< out for each other! 

Non-Monogamous Relationships 

Never give one lover cause to feel threatened by another's place in your Ufe or heart. 
In this society, we are constantly being made to feel that we are in competition with 
one another, so we feel threatened by others. Healthy non-monogamy should disprove 
this conditioning, not reinforce it. Make it clear, in actions as well as words, that your 
relationship with each person (lover or not!) depends only on itself, not on the way it 
compares with other relationships. Hopefully, you're not cruising for the perfect wife or 
husband or trophy lover, picking up and discarding people as you hunt down the ulti- 
mate commodity on the partner market; instead, you're cultivating life-long, adaptable 
relationships with individuals you love and treat with respect, in which you enjoy your- 
selves consensually and maybe even support one another's life projects." Lovers, in such 
a scenario, should have no more cause to fear or be jealous of one another than friends 
do — indeed, one good reason to be non-monogamous is to foster in your love affairs the 
qualities that make your friendships work, or, better, to blur the hnes between the two. 
All the same, since you grew up in this society, there are going be situations in which 
one or both of you feel jealous. There are many things you can do to address this when 
you feel it yourself. First, try to separate and identify your different feelings, so you 
know what you're reacting to or acting on. The most prevalent cause of jealousy is in- 
security: to be in any successful relationship, non-monogamous or not, you need to be 
grounded, you need to feel good about yourself and have a sense of your own worth and 
attractiveness. In this sense, leading a Ufe that helps you respect yourself is practically 
a prerequisite for any intimacy with others. At the same time, you should be able to ask 
your lover for reassurance whenever you need it — don't be timid about this: if your lover 
loves you, he or she Vidll want to let you know, and it's a lot better to speak up when you 
need it than to restrain yourself from "putting pressure" on him or her, only to explode 
or implode later on. To return to the subject of self-confidence, loving yoiorself will make 
it a lot easier to beheve other people's reassurances. 

Insecurity can manifest itself in projection: it may be easy to imagine that your lover's 
other lover, or crush, or potential crush, is absolutely perfect. Try to get some perspective; it 
may well be that you spend more time thinking about the other lover than your lover does. 
No one's perfect, anyway, not even the Other Woman; and, being in a non-monogamous 
relationship, you have less to fear than you would in a monogamous couple: your lover 
can experiment with others and enjoy being vidth them without having to feel that he or 
she should leave you. Outside the couple paradigm, no one can steal a lover from you— the 
extent to which you're good for a person determines how much he or she will stay with 
you. If you have a longstanding or strong love, no fling or flirtation can endanger it. 

Insecurity may not be the only fliing you're feeling, either. You might also feel judg- 
mental of your lover — you might be disappointed in her or him for being attracted to 
someone you deem unworthy, or you might feel protective for similar reasons. Either 
way, you have to trust your lover to know what's good for himself or herself— there's 
no way around that. Your partner probably can sense what he or she needs much better 
than you can, and the decision is not yours to make, anyway. 

Jealousy can also proceed from feelings of competitiveness with other lovers, espe- 
cially members of the same sex — these are fostered in this society, and often serve to 
isolate us from potential comrades. Again, hopefully you trust that whomever your lover 
trusts is worthy of respect; remember, whatever really is good for your lover is, in some 
sense at least, good for you. Being able to see your lover's lovers as friends or at least 
allies can be revolutionary, in a society that would have us turn against each other over 

It might also be that your jealousy is caused by instabilities or incongruences in the 
relationship itself, which may need to be addressed. Jealousy isn't always a merely irra- 
tional, destructive feeling; often, it can be a usefiil barometer with which to gauge what 
is going on within and between people. 

Non-Monogamous Relationships 

When you are feeling jealous and insecure, it may help to remember that the degree 
of freedom your lover has is extended to you, too. If you wouldn't want to constrained, 
be glad the two of you are not constraining each other. If you've had relationships with 
or been attracted to others besides your lover, ponder those experiences for perspective 
on what your lover is feeling; if those dalliances didn't decrease your lover's importance 
to you, these probably won't come between you, either. 

When your lover is jealous, try not to feel accused or attacked. Try not to fall into the 
default setting of accusations, denials, attacks, defenses, suspicions, recriminations and 
self-recriminations. Step back and make sure it is clear how important your lover is to 
you; emphasize that no other attraction or relationship can threaten the one you share. 
{On the other hand, of course, don't ever say this if it's not true!) If the terms of the re- 
lationship or your mutual expectations have to be re-negotiated, don't put it off or skirt 
around the issue. 

Here's another worst-case scenario: you're involved with two people, and they take an 
intense disliking to each other. This can be really unpleasant for everybody There are 
still a few things you can do to keep things as smooth as possible, though. Don't take 
sides — refuse to sit as a judge while one tries to convince you of the other's wrongdoing. 
Have your own opinions of how they are conducting themselves, of course, but empha- 
size that you're not interested in being persuaded to be partisan. Emphasize to each that 
both are important to you — make it clear there'll be no choosing of one over the other, 
and that if either relationship ends it will be on account of factors internal to it, not 
external. Encourage the two of them work things out like adults, if possible. Don't ferry 
messages back and forth between them. Definitely don't let yourself make decisions to 
appease either of them, even unconsciously — ^this v^dll only make you resent them, and 
Non-Monogamous Relationships disappoint yourself, in the long run. 

You may have heard about the "primary partner" model, one of the most widely dis- 
cussed schematics for non-monogamy. Some feel such schematics suggest hierarchy 
or protocol: they hold that each person should be his or her own primary partner, and 
endeavor to be committed to all the partners with whom he or she shares life, whatever 
roles they play. Indeed, we risk a lot by not letting those roles be fluid enough to accom- 
modate all the changes that relationships, needs, and expectations are always going 
through. It's important that people in a relationship know what to expect from one 
another, but formal titles should not be necessary for this. 

Speaking of a hierarchy of partners — in addition to atavistic dishonesty and shame, 
another lefliover behavior you may have carried with you from the monogamy ghetto is 
a tendency to treat lovers besides your "primary partner" with less respect or sensitivity. 
This is something people, especially men, do when cheating in monogamous relation- 
ships: motivated by guilt, they mistreat their fellow adulterer, as if to show that, though 
they are cheating on their partner, they still value him or her above all others. Non-mo- 
nogamy is supposed to mean everyone in every relationship gets treated with respect: 
every plant and animal in an ecosystem is equally important, regardless of how great or 
small a role it plays. 

Resisting l-iierarchy 

No one should pressure others into a relationship model with which they don't feel 
comfortable. That can only make both parties unhappy. At the same time, you're not 
forcing others into anything by making your own decisions about what is right for you. 
You make your decisions, let others make theirs; where there is common ground, you 
can meet. Ideally, every couple should have the same idea of what they want their rela- 
tionship to be; realistically, people have to make compromises — just try to make sure 
they're mutually beneficial compromises. Again, there's no perfect model: each couple, 
threesome, and community must work out for itself how to get along and be happy to- 

Working Things Out 

Non-Monogamous Relationships 

gether. \?S/hat works for orxe may not work for another — it might not even look healthy 
or sensible to another, but that's the way it goes. 

"I have one last question. If I have more than one lover at a time, won't I end up calling them 
by the wrong names in bed and getting in trouble with everybody?" 

Actually, my experience is the opposite: when you're used to being sexually involved 
with more than one person, lovers' names cease to be noises you make out of habit 
whenever you're aroused and come to refer to the actual individuals in question. Being 
non-monogamous, you may discover that when you're in bed with someone, you're 
present with that person as an individual, rather than as a role in your life, more so than 
you would be with a girlfriend or boyfriend. If that doesn't prove to be the case for you, 
there's nothing that says you have to go to bed with more than one person at a time to 
be non-monogamous— or even with anyone, for that matter. Non-monogamous and 
celibate, that's a legitimate option, too, with a lot to recommend it. 

Non-Monogamess Relationships 



KNOW EACH OTHER, BUT SHOULD FoLiow-THRouGH — Optional, hut a nice bonus 

All of us know a few people who would be the best of friends if they only knew each f ftStrif Ctf Ofis 

other. One fun way to take care of a lot of these introductions all at once is to throw what 
I've dubbed a Mutual Strangers Party in which you gather them all in one room in a 
deliberate attempt to provide a catalyst for a blossoming and long-lasting friendship or 
several. You can announce these intentions of yours, if you have a sort of social-activ- 
ist motivation, presenting a manifesto or otherwise making explicit your goals for the 
party; or you can simply provide the crudites or crumpets, and let your guests do the 
work. The problem with friendships born in this way of course, is their fragility, and 
the likelihood that one or both parties will fail to pursue each one, so you might want to 
think of some ways to encourage your guests to make solid friendships of these tentative 
beginnings; some rapidly brainstormed suggestions include supplementary activities 
scheduled for a later date, a list of names and phone numbers to distribute, a homework 
assignment such as a gift exchange ... At the very least, with so many wonderful people 
in one room, it should be a fabulous party! ^^^ 


You liftvs been •pooldlly »(ilBoted frdia 
undradi ol olllijiDlo woo»n to pwtiolpiae lii 

rotlisr uniquB «nd qui*« probably •peotacanr 
vant. For tba oontlnuity of tha evo.,t, It In 
wi-01't.aat to arrive In dlmuiae ,ttii(l_ r*"'"!" 
lilBiit until otharwuo inairuoted. It m 
bBOiuteiy Impai-atlva tliot ^ou msiitlLin tirla 
nvltation to no one, ..dvlaeblu Iti fn^t l.-^ -Ji'rn 
% iMtsdlntolj' upon motaoi'lilntj the dalo »■>'! 



I was handed a mysterious folded up sheet of paper at a Rah Bras show, and instructed 
not to open it until I was alone. It turned out to be an invitation to come in disguise to 
an appointed place at an appointed date and time, and to tell no one of the invitation. 
When I got there, wrapped in scarves on a murderously hot North Carolina evening, I 
was blindfolded and led into a darkened room, where I was placed kneeling on the floor. 
I could feel other people around me, could hear them breathing, shifting their weight, 
but we had been instructed not to speak. Eventually, after listening to others being led 
into the room, I heard the door dose and silence descended. The sound of running wa- 
ter began, and then 1 could hear someone playing a saw It was soothing and eerie. This 
quiet was harshly interrupted by flashing lights, startlingly bright through the blindfold, 
and loud noises, and the smeU of burning. A woman (the same friend who had given 
me the invitation) talked about how contexts shape human interactions, and suggested 
that by placing people in unexpected and unusual contexts we can break down some of 
the barriers between us, "break the silence of isolation." She paused. "There's tea and 
coflee in the other room." We remove our blindfolds, and for a second I don't recognize 
anyone through their disguises. Then identities begin to come into focus: some women 
I know, including my three housemates, some women I recognize but have never met, 
and some women that are complete strangers to me. In the kitchen, over tea and coffee, 
the woman responsible for all of this revealed that she wanted to do it because she felt 
there were so many amazing women in tovtm, but no real network of female friend- 
ships. We agreed to try to reinforce our vague acquaintances and other associations 
with powerful bonding and energizing fun, and decided that our first activity would be a 
massive game of Assassin, carried out over the next couple of weeks, in which we were 
aU assigned victims and tried to avoid getting "killed" ourselves. My housemates and I 
endured a series of threatening phone calls and letters (cut out of magazines, naturally), 
a doll tattooed to match one of us and hanged in a tree outside our door, and nerve-rack- 

ing trips to the grocery store. I managed to kill off two people, but one got me at the final 
showdown, in the club where we'd agreed to meet for another show to find out who'd 
survived to the last. 

In the end, nothing more came of that party. We never got together again. Chapel 
Hill/Carrboro's female population is perhaps even more loosely connected now than it 
was then. We were busy, active women, and we didn't follow through on the initiative 
our friend had shown. But I still think it's a fantastic idea, even if none of us ever makes 
it work perfectly. 


Pie Throwing 

Ingredients Deserving target 

Crazed, pie-slinging assailant(s) 

Pie — see below for recipe and packaging 
options, and factors to consider in choosim 

Optional Ingredients' Diversions 

Getaway Driver 

Instructions Pidng, like property destruction, demystifies and undermines the power structures of 

our society by shovning that icons and idols are not unassailable or above ridicule. It's like 
burning someone in efEgy, only better, because it reveals how, in this media-addled society, 
pubHc figureheads are nothing more than effigies of themselves, ripe for the roasting. 

Choose a worthy target. It could be a speciahst, CEO, or head of state — pie terrorists 
have already hit all of these on various occasions to great effect — or a less obvious 
quarry who nonetheless represents social forces imbued with a seriousness that must 
be undercut. Hitting a reporter during a live media event, for example, could send an 
408 important message. 

First Things First . . 

The other question is when and where. Striking while your target is onstage giving 
a speech delivers the maximum shock and awe; on the other hand, it also involves the 
maximum danger of being caught, so if you're not eager to go to court and perhaps jail, 
you could try striking somewhere between the chaufFeured car and the red-carpeted 
doorway and then making a break for it. Be on the lookout for perfect opportunities; 
don't force things, they'll present themselves sooner or later. As you balance risk versus 
audience and humiliation potential, factor in local legal precedents, the prevailing po- 
litical climate, and the competence of your lawyer. Don't expect justice, but don't let the 
police state keep you down. 

It doesn't take an economist or espionage expert to figure out that if you try to enter 
a meeting of the pretentious and portentous with metal spikes in your nose and pie- 
stains on your t- shirt, you may not be admitted. Shave, put on a suit, wear an American 
flag pin, keep your hair short— you'll be able to go anywhere! More important than the 
accessories, however, is the vibe you project: you should radiate confidence, comfort, 
and a sense of purpose, as if you not only belong there but serve an important organi- 
zational role. It can be shockingly easy to sneak into high-security events: a few weeks 
ago, my student friends got in free to a top dollar fundraiser at which the Vice Presi- 
dent was speaking, simply by introducing themselves at the door as the local Young 
Republicans group. They would have been able to stay for the whole event, had the 
Young Republicans themselves not eventually shown up! For more on such matters, 
see Infitration, pg. 306. 

As for the pie, carry it in a bowling ball bag, or keep it in a container with a plastic 
lid and carry it in a nondescript briefcase or top-secret spy satchel under your coat. 
The type of pie will dictate the details of concealment and delivery, while the environ- 
ment will dictate your subterfuge; at a press conference, you might want to smuggle it 

Dress the Port 

Pie Throiving 

in inside a smart attache case or large notebook, while on the street you could carry it 
in a pizza box, same as you would Stencils (pg. 516) 01 Asphalt Mosaics (pg. 66) another 

The Meringue Is the Message The experienced pie assassins of the Biotic Baking Brigade use whipped cream on paper 

plates whenever possible: whipped cream makes a dramatic mess, and paper plates are 
harmless projectiles. On the other hand, if your target is surrounded by security personnel, 
you probably won't be safe stopping to fill a plate with whipped cream at the last moment; 
in such a situation, something with enough internal coherence to be kept sidewise imtil the 
moment of truth, such as a tofu. cream pie, will serve better. Old-fashioned apple or cherry 
pies have a certain nostalgia value that can sometimes outweigh their unwieldiness. 

Try not to do anything that will actually injure your target — your goal is to humili- 
ate, not hospitalize, or else you'd be using a crowbar. If your target is wearing glasses, 
unless you are indeed using whipped cream on a paper plate or something similarly 
fluffy, try to hit from the side, avoiding the eye area. As for ingredients, staying away 
from animal products is not only eco-friendly, but also saves you the trouble of re- 
searching whether your quarry is lactose intolerant. Some pie fillings can look like 
blood on the recipient's face, so stay away from those xmless that's the image you want 
the world to see. 

Launch Should you throw your missile, or mash it right in the victim's face? The former is less 

certain to succeed, but safer for the target, and more breathtaking to behold when it 

works; the latter is harder to carry off in the midst of high security especially if you're 

Pie Throwing hoping to escape. If you may indeed have to throw the pie, make sure you get plenty of 

410 practice in advance. 

If there are armed guards present, try to make it clear at the last instant that your 
weapon is a pie and nothing more: hold it high and move with steadiness and confi- 
dence — no desperate lunges! You want to retain just enough of the element of surprise 
to hit your object, without getting shot full of bullets as a result. It never hurts to have a 
clever quip prepared, either: "It's a good day to pie," et cetera. 

How many assailants is enough? Having several ready can increase the odds that one 
wiU succeed, but it might be easier to stay inconspicuous if only one or two people are 
sneaking around where they shouldn't be. If a diversion draws everyone's attention in one 
direction, the lone pie-slinger can approach from the other side. Again, the terrain wlU 
determine what works; if you have to cover a broad area and don't know where your quarry 
will show himself, a dozen groups of three might fan out to be sure one could do the job. 

A fimny, dramatic photo and a witty press release (see Mainstream Media, pg. 358) will 
get you a long way, whether your intention is to get coverage in the corporate press or 
just inspire your fellow radicals through underground reports. To this end, having your 
own photographers on hand can be a good idea — if you do succeed in acting with the 
element of surprise, they'll probably be the only ones ready to snap the pictures at the 
big moment, unless you've interrupted a photo session to make your hit. A good image 
of a successfiil pieing can make it into commercial outlets that would otherwise never 
publish anything compromising the dignity of dignitaries. If you're set on making this 
happen, get your image and press release out the instant the event takes place, and have 
a press liaison ready to answer questions immediately about why anyone would want to 
pie your chosen target. Even if you're trying to get media attention, don't rely on those 
deceit-spevnng mercenaries— make sure you're putting the necessary energy into sup- 
porting independent media networks that are ready to tell the truth for its own sake. 

Pies on Prime Time 

Pie Throwing 


A Pie Neuer Thrown 

Pie Thromng 


The President of the United States was running for re-election, and showed up at a city 
in our territory for a fundraising luncheon. Quite a few of the state's wealthiest and most 
conservative businessmen came to pay thousands of dollars a plate to hear him speak, 
a far greater number of angry protesters showed up to boo him, and the city brought in 
massive numbers of police to assist the Secret Service in protecting our Campaigner in 
Chief The stage was set for something to happen — but what? 

The character of the pre-protest rally was dictated by the "opposition" party, which was 
as repugnant as the incumbent himself None of us had made it out in advance to beau- 
tify the terrain, and though there were some radicals present, there was no framework 
for militant action organized, either. Things only got a little interesting when everyone 
converged around the convention center at the end of the luncheon; finally, there was a 
little noise and spirit. The police had us lined up behind a metal fence on one side of the 
building, however, and it was still one of those disempowering, demoralizing situations 
where the best you can hope for is to perform your posed discontent for a camera crew. 

I ran around to survey the area, and figured out which route the President's motor- 
cade would be using to leave. The police had blocked all access to it except for an alley 
that could be reached by passing through a hotel parking garage. I slipped back to the 
main group, and let the drummers know about this; they proceeded there, to see the 
motorcade ojff. I was about to join them, when I spied a small group of men in expensive 
business suits. They were walking down the street in the opposite direction, right past 
the protesters and away from the police lines, receiving attention from no one. In twos 
and threes behind them, more such groups were leaving the building and walking out of 
the area, presumably back to their cars. These were the men who had paid to attend the 
fiindraiser. I decided to let the drummers handle the going-away party and investigate. 

I accosted the next pair of businessmen, looked deep into their eyes, and raised my 
fingers in their faces in an insulting gesture. This did little to advance the struggle for 

social liberation, though it did prompt the Muslim minister who had been the only even 
vaguely radical speaker at the pre-protest rally to point me out to his friends and give me 
his card. I took a different tact with the next capitalist who came along — I fell in beside 
him, and began interrogating him about his social role and political goals. Well-prac- 
ticed as his kind have to be in evasiveness and prevarication, he was nearly a match for 
me in the rhetoric department, and I hadn't quite finished converting him to anarchism 
by the time he got to his car. 

At that point, we were quite far from the protest and the police — looking around the 
empty streets, I saw only a few figures, all of them other bourgeois pigs leaving the lun- 
cheon! Christ, I realized, this is where the action could have been, if only we'd prepared. 
Fuck the big guy, with his milHons of dollars of security — he only has power because 
these people pay so much to come to his luncheons, and here they are totally unpro- 
tected! If we had come in small groups with cameras and pies, we could have provided a 
persuasive deterrent to these folks showing up to future such events, and quite probably 
gotten away with it, too. I guess there's always next time — and yes, kids, if there's ever a 
noxious political fundraiser in your area, please do try this at home! 

Pie Throwing 

Portrait Exchange 




Here's the short version: set yourself up in pubHc spaces drawing free portraits for pass- 
ersby, as a way to initiate interaction. Read on to learn about one agent's experiences 
inventing and testing this method. 

a pad of paper to draw on 

Pencils, pens, or other drawing tools 

An eraser (optional) 

Reciprocation device (in this example, 

the "Grievance Board") 
a bicycle or other honorable means 

of transportation 
Solid listening skills 



Drawing ability — moderate to jaw- 
dropping; confidence may compensate 
for lack of skill 

A reasonably OPEN MIND — a tendency 
to give people the benefit of the doubt 



It was my growing frustration with drawing in an isolated studio that led me to pack 
up some supplies and do my first "Portrait Exchange" experiment in the middle of the 
city. I was learning a great deal in my studio, but I felt disconnected from others, from 
the city, from the very system I was attempting to understand, critique, and change. 
Besides, I wanted people who didn't like galleries to see my drawings — some of my 
drawings don't like galleries. I wanted people to own my work without paying for it. I 
wanted to involve others in the process of making art, a process I find so wonderful that 
I would recommend it to a stranger on the street. 

In the middle of a workday, I biked up to a commercial block where I was a guest/ 
stranger and whose supporting community I knew little about. I set up my portable 
easel on the side of a sidewalk block and, once I got the nerve, began hawking my "free 
portraits" shamelessly. I had no idea whether I would be embraced or booted off the 
block. I had a hand-drawn sign that said, "Free Portraits, 3 Minutes or Less, No Gim- 
micks!" People were naturally confused. I could follow the progression of their concep- 
tions of who 1 was very easily by reading their faces as I patiently explained the project 
and waited for their furrowed brows to relax. I found that emphasizing "free" and "three 
minutes" was helpful in getting my point across quickly The time constraint was nec- 
essary because most of the people passing me were going somewhere and 1 knew I 
couldn't expect to engage them without a time limit. Once they calmed dovm and were 
speaking with me and being dravra, the actual drawing could take much longer than 
three minutes. I never really timed them. 

The energy was electric. Sharing three minutes of intimacy with a stranger is excit- 
ing, and the speed with which anonymity melts is breathtaking. All sorts of personalities 
were captivated by the prospect of walking away with a portrait, particularly a half decent 
one. Some people hung around to be cheerleaders, professing my skills to new pass- 
ersby Some people hung around to talk shit, to see if they could get under my skin, to 
see what I was made of All the while I was having the time of my life, busting my ass 
in an effort to do justice to each new curious face. 

I had prepared a "Grievance Board" which I intended to use to collect people's griev- 
ances with the area or community that they lived in. This wasn't something that I want- 
ed to push on people, so I went out of my way to explain that it was optional, but if they 
so desired they were more than welcome to add something to the Grievance Board. To 
my pleasant surprise people were all too eager to express themselves, to present both 
minor annoyances and major complaints. From the rotting produce at the local grocery 

Portrait Exchange 

store to the lack of strong interracial communication, the Grievance Board soon came to 
be a portrait of the neighborhood- 
After some two hours my drawing hand was starting to cramp up and I knew it was 
time to go — I needed work on my endurance. I waited for the fluctuating crowd around 
me to die down long enough to rip my sign off the brick wall and start folding up my 
easel. A few minutes later I was back on my bike, heading home with the satisfaction of 
having drawn 30 portraits, the elation of giving them all away, and the weight of a limp 
left hand and a thousand new ideas. 

Further Articulation 

Portrait Exchange 

It took me a little while to comprehend just how successful the experiment had been. I'd 
been unsure if people would embrace me or beat my ass, but I put myself out there, and 
in doing so 1 was completely transformed. An experiment became a launchpad. It was 
immediately apparent to me that this project was ripe with potential far beyond what I 
had expected. I viewed this concept of a Portrait Exchange as not just a self-contained 
artwork, but also, and more importantly, a tool, a simple but potent invention teeming 
with uncharted uses and destinations. 

For many reasons, my portrait-drawing enabled many different people to open up to me, 
to allow me inside their lives during a three- to five-minute blip in their daily routine. Their 
grievances were a documentation of existence at specific points along my path, specific 
points in specific neighborhoods of a specific city that is supposedly indexed thoroughly 
by the Census Bureau. Life-affirming and captivating as the personal interactions between 
myself and those I drew were, I wanted the 'Exchange to fulfill a greater function. My 
ambition was brewing. I began to think of myself as some kind of bastardized statistician, 
some Census Bureaucrat with an unhealthy human streak and a penchant for accuracy. 

The next step in tiie process for me, the tangent I decided to follow, was to "test" the 
Census data for the city of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. I did a little research at the pubhc 

library in a room devoted to local and state-based information. Taking a look at the por- 
traits that the Census draws of different neighborhoods, I quickly realized that, whoever 
those people are, they can't draw for shit. Neighborhoods and boroughs are categorized 
by a few simphstic statistics, revolving around race {black, white, and other!), income, 
and level of education. What can possibly be learned from such portraits? I began to 
think about the ones who look at those statistics . . . property owners? businesses? politi- 
cians? Perhaps it would be wrong of me to call these statistics outright racist and clas- 
sist, but they perpetuate a system of categorization that ends up being racist and classist. 
Either way, I realized that with my shiny new tool, the softly sharpened 3B pencil, I could 
gather data about neighborhoods that would be more representative of the people as 
individuals. By offering to take down people's grievances about their community I could 
accumulate "data" that would be insightful and relevant to humans, not just business. I 
could reshape the landscape of the city by presenting information that would completely 
dwarf the significance of the census. It could lead to a new convention, even, of the city 
hiring rambunctious portrait artists every few years to gather the con-census. 

I had to start small, though. I chose the most statistically dramatic neighborhoods as 
my first destinations. The richest, the poorest, the blackest, the whitest, the most educat- 
ed, the least. I brought a different Grievance Board to each place, labeled with the name of 
the neighborhood. I set up in spots that appeared to have a lot of foot taraffic, mostly near 
commercial areas, and I opened my big mouth and asked if anyone wanted free portiaits. 
The range of responses was tremendously diverse. Here follow a few anecdotes 

As a white guy in tiie blackest neighborhood (98.6% black), the skepticism was thick 
as I walked along the road looking for a place to set up my easel. As I found out later, 
white people in that neighborhood are most often police. Once I found a good spot to 
set up my easel, a young man approached and asked what I was doing. I told him I . , 

was drawing free portraits. He started to get agitated, assuming it was a business stiat- 4^7 ""^ ^''^ ""^^ 

egy . . . "Oh, I see, so you draw a few for free, and then we gotta start paying." Makes 
sense — why the hell would someone from outside the community come in and draw 
free portraits? I explained that they really were free, and he immediately read that I was 
being honest, and expressed complete support of my endeavor. 

The rest of the day was amazing. People thought it was the greatest thing, lines 
formed, and many would come by just to watch. At one point, an older guy came by and 
stood right beside me, quietly watching me work. When I finished the drawing and gave 
it to the woman I was drawing, he looked at me and asked, "You're done with that?" He 
proceeded to critique my style, explaining details like how I shouldn't erase my initial 
sketch lines, because "you can use those." During the middle of the next portrait, I let 
him take over. He was skilled, using a much more graceful style than my own harsh 
marks, and applying careful layers of shading with the side of the pencil. However, his 
portrait probably took fifteen minutes, and the woman who was standing patiently while 
he drew called him out: "How many years have you lived here and you never came out- 
side to do this?" 

In the most well-educated neighborhood, I was invisible. I was amazed at how many 
people passed up free portraits. The area was thriving, with successful businesses hawk- 
ing their wares all around me — perhaps in a neighborhood where money's not that 
tight, a free portrait really isn't that mouth-watering. Nonetheless, once I got a few peo- 
ple curious and started churning out drawings, a high level of interest ensued. I met a 
lot of older people I normally would never encounter: an ex-music professor and rabid 
vinyl addict who gave me an open invite to his listening study, for example, and an art 
professor who was curious how I got permission to do public art {"Well, I wasn't really 
aware that 1 needed permission"). The grievance list was laughable in comparison to 
Portrait Exchange ^^^ ^^^^^ ^ ^^^ already accumulated from rougher neighborhoods characterized by an 
418 overzealous police presence: noisy radiators, inconsiderate dog owners, and the like. 

I didn't draw anyone over 30 in the whitest neighborhood. It was probably my timing, 
but also perhaps my location, two variables I am still learning to adjust for. This neigh- 
borhood seemed incredibly isolated, on the outskirts of the city in a particularly vacant 
area. I drew a lot of listless kids. For about an hour I was essentially hanging out with 
a crew of teenagers who were having a lot of fun getting their portraits drawn, compli- 
menting my skills and calling their friends on cell phones to tell them to come on out. 
They were disappointed when I told them I'd only be there for a few hours. They think 
this shit is easy! 

The project is far from over. I want to compile information about humans that is as 
human as the humans who offered it up. At the same time, I want this information to be 
considered on the same terms as existing Census statistics, so that it may compete with 
and combat Census dominance. I haven't yet found the way to have it both ways. How 
can I collect non-standardized information and compile it so that it can be analyzed 
efficiently? Maybe it can't be done. Much of the "post production" is still up in the air. 
This recipe is fresh like mom's bread, and can surely be sliced in many dijfFerent ways. 

Understand the difference between a park and a busy street, and the different attitudes 
that people may have toward your work depending on the tim.e and place when and 
where they approach you. The only areas you want to avoid are those where you would 
simply be a novelty (such as a park area). 

Be honest with the people you meet. Don't feign nonchalance if you're actually there 
as part of a multi-person effort to index the town based on human input. People deserve 
to know who you are, where you're from, and why you're doing what you're doing. Not 
everyone wiR love you for sticking your neck and your nose out. There are several excel- 
lent sociopolitical critiques of the motivation for this project. It's important to accept 
them, but not get paralyzed by them. 

General Cooking Instructions: 

Portrait Exchange 

Don't step on anyone's toes. If you set up in a neighborhood and people make it 
clear to you that you're not wanted (i.e., they tell you that directly), then pack up and go 
elsewhere. Maybe it's just one particular person, and you can come back on another day 
when things are a litde warmer. On a personal note, I have never ever had a hostile situ- 
ation arise, and I've drawn in many different types of neighborhoods. 

Don't accept any money. It will be tempting, particularly because some people will 
feel intrinsically incapable of accepting your drawing without paying for it. And hell, 
you probably could use the cash — you're an artist, right? The problems with payment 
are serious, though. It sets a precedent of expectation both for you and for those being 
drawn. Placing your artwork within a financial framework will force a cold professional- 
ism onto your intentions, and before long you'll lose context and become just another 
street vendor. As if that's not reason enough to avoid the green, the moment you accept 
a cent from anyone you play safely into the game of law enforcement. Any cop can then 
forcibly remove you from the premises for soliciting business vidthout a license. 

Strategize what can be done with the information you collect. My recipe, in this way, 
is gloriously unfinished. I'm sure there are dozens of possible ways to see this through 
to beautifid and effective conclusions. 

Portrait Exchange 

Reclaim the Streets 

Lots of fun people 

Material for roadblocks — e.g,, 
couches, junker cars, tripods and 
experienced people to be on the tripods 

Well-scouted meeting spot, route, 

AND destination 

Handbills, posters, and other 


Fliers to pass out to passersby during 
the event, inviting them to join in 

AND explaining THE EVENT 


Banners and flags bearing messages 

Chalk, spray paint, stencils 

Mobile sound system — this could 
range from a truck with a disc jockey 
and sound system inside to a bike cart 
with a hoomhox; remember, whatever 
it is, it could be confiscated by the cops 

Decorative props- — e.g., inflatahles, 
puppets, fiags, enormous metal 
icosahedrons, large paper mache suns, 
moons, and animals 

Games — e.g.. Twister, jump rope 

Polaroid camera and photos to 
give away — and perhaps stickers to 
put on them 

Free food, massages, etc. 


A Reclaim the Streets action hijacks public space to show some of the ways it can be 
used that are more creative, exciting, and community-oriented than mere commerce 
or traffic; essentially, it is a radical, do-it-yourself street carnival. It is not a protest con- 
fronting the authorities who inhibit such activities so much as it is a demonstration 
that sidesteps their control to provide a temporary example of what we're all missing. 
This can be an excellent way for a radical community to have a good time and practice 



You can entertain everyone by putting 

dishwashing detergent in public 


Reclaim the Streets 

reinterpreting and rearranging public life, while breeding new desires and an expanded 
sense of the possible in passersby. 

The most basic element of such an action is a terrain to be reclaimed. Before you 
select a location, determine how much of a challenge you're ready to take on. There are 
many parks and sidewalks that deserve to have new life breathed into them, and it's 
wise not to overextend at first: if your city or town is devoid of social life, it's probably 
better to start out getting people together in a risk-free, low-key manner than it is to cut 
immediately to big confrontations with police. At the same time, if your community is 
ready, there's a lot to be said for highly visible, ambitious takeovers of areas that no one 
could imagine being used for anything other than the purposes to which capitahsm has 
consigned them. One hundred people dancing, pla3dng kickball, and picnicking in the 
middle of the freeway while everyone else sweats and swears in traffic certainly puts the 
conflict between the partisans of business and pleasure in clear terms. Such an occupa- 
tion is bound to be frustrating for at least some of those who have cast their lot with the 
status quo; as a rule of thumb, it's generally best to go ahead and piss off the bosses and 
bureaucrats, while being careful to entertain and engage Joe and Jane Public instead of 
infuriating them. 

Regardless of how disruptive you plan your event to be for business as usual, it should 
take place at a location where people naturally congregate, at a time when they vidll be 
most likely to stick around to see what's happening. Thus, if you've chosen a business 
district, the end of the Friday workday might be perfect, while a Saturday afternoon 
would be better for a downtown square. At their best, Reclaim the Streets actions are 
not invitation-only festivals of interference for an insider elite, but surprise parties with 
the public at large as the guests of honor. Think throughout the planning about how you 
wUl make strangers feel welcome participating in your event — if you do your work well, 
they wUl find themselves joining in before they've stopped to think about it. 

When it comes to promotion and publicity, a Reclaim the Streets action, like any 
unpermitted action, presents something of a double bind in that it needs to slip under 
the radar of the authorities while being conspicuous to everyone else. Even if you're 
planning an event in a public park, you'll find that the rules surrounding the use of both 
private property and public space are rigged to prevent people from getting together out- 
side the circuitry of commerce and consumption. Applying for a permit will most likely 
only incur more official attention and consequent attempts to prevent your event from 
happening at all, unless you're really ready to go that route the whole way and have the 
requisite legal counsel, financial resources, free time, and privilege to be respected by 
the authorities. This means that the right to organize public events is reserved for those 
that most resemble corporations and government agencies, so it can be worth doing 
things without a permit just for the sake of setting a precedent in favor of free speech. 

If you work without a permit, you had better have the advantage of surprise, so the 
police won't be ready to shut your event down immediately. If you only publicize your 
event through channels that won't reach the ears of the authorities, this can secure you 
that advantage, but it will also limit participation to an invite-only crowd plus passersby 
Alternatively, you can keep the location of the event a secret until the moment it begins, 
or somehow attract so many more people or display so much more energy and clever- 
ness than anyone expected that the police won't be prepared to stop you. 

According to your plan, you will either need to advertise your event selectively and 
securely or as widely as possible. One way to combine the two approaches is to advertise 
the event with a slew of different posters — "open drum circle to welcome spring," "join 
the radical drum corps," "art bike rally" — while spreading the word to everyone you 
trust that these events will all fuse into a Reclaim the Streets. 

If you must keep your target area a secret, but you want to promote the event widely, 
advertise a meeting point alone. Everyone can gather there, then proceed to the secret 

Recioim the Streets 


Reclaim the Streets 

destination. If necessary, have the mass that assembles 
break up into many small groups, each led by someone 
in the know, so the police will be hard-pressed to keep up 
with them all; the groups can all converge suddenly at the 
same location and time, and the party begin. A bicycle pa- 
rade (see Bicycle Parades, pg. 100) can also take place, to 
scout the area, keep police befuddled, and add to the fes- 
tive atmosphere. 

You may need to blockade the area you have selected 
(see Blockades and Lockdowns, pg. 162). It's generally bet- 
ter to reroute traffic than to stop it cold, both to maintain 
pleasant relations with other citizens and to make your 
event sustainable. Traffic signs and cones hunted and 
gathered from urban environments will give an official 
air to your barricade, while couches and easy chairs will 
emphasize the disjunction between work space and play 
space. You can buy old junker cars — paying in cash, leav- 
ing no record of how they were acquired — and disable them in the middle of key inter- 
sections. Ambitious, large-scale Reclaim the Streets actions have used tall tripods with 
people atop them to secure space before; this is dangerous, of course, and should only 
be hazarded by those with a lot of experience. If you want to reserve an area usually 
filled by parked cars, park your own cars in all the spaces in advance, then move them 
all at once, leaving the spaces occupied by the materials unloaded from the cars for the 
event. Alternatively, a truck filled with such materials can drive by at the critical moment 
and be unloaded by the crowd. Materials can also be concealed in an alley nearby— in a 
dumpster, if need be, assuming you've done your homework on trash collection times! 

That's the difEcuh stuff. Now think about all the fun, exciting things you can do in 
your liberated zone! Roll out the red carpet, set up a sandbox, tie ribbons around ev- 
erything, drop banners {see Banner Drops and Banner Hoists, pg. 75), throw flowers (see 
Dumpster Dwng, pg. 219), decorate every surface with sidewalk chalk — decor counts for 
a lot when it comes to reinventing a space and setting a new tone for what can happen 
in it. Stage theatrical weddings, puppet shows, poetry readings, games of limbo, satiri- w j m,^ ■ 

j^ or £-£- ' r / o ' o ' You can render PVC pipes almost 

cal political speeches, drum circles, street theater. Set up tables with free food, fortune unbreakable by filling them with spray 
cookies, literature (see Distribution, Tabling, and Infoshops, pg. 210), massages, portraits c^" expanding insulation foam, 
(see Portrait Exchange, pg. 415), or palm reading. Lay down a mat for breakdancing. Bring 
stilt- walkers, DJs spinning danceable tracks, live musicians, guerrilla gardeners plant- 
ing fruit trees and vigorous weeds, jugglers and clowns. Arrange performers through- 
out the space in such a way that they won't interfere with each other's acts. Broadcast 
pirate radio programs to inform and invite those nearby. 

Electrical outlets are not hard to find in public areas— try lampposts or even stores. 
These will be useful for powering musical equipments, fans to blow up infiatables, pro- 
jectors and lights, and other crazy machines. 

To emphasize this once more: write walk-on roles into your street party! For example, 
you could paint a funny image on a wooden backdrop with holes cut into it, and give 
out free Polaroids to people who want to pose v;dth their faces in the holes, slapping a 
sticker on each bearing the punch line for the image, information about the event, or 
the address of a relevant website. Also, have handouts ready for the crowd of onlookers, 
explaining the meaning of the event from the various perspectives of those involved. 

Figure out ways to invite and involve people from every walk of life. For example, if 
you are teaching a class of kids, bring the class, with something for them to perform or 
do for the occasion. The presence of students may help to defuse the dangers posed by „ , . , 
emotionally stunted law enforcement agents. 425 

The police, once they arrive, will ask who is in charge. Make sure everyone involved 
knows to say they are just random passersby who happened to join in. The longer the 
authorities are confused and unsure of what to do, the longer your event can go on. At 
some point, once they've gotten oriented, they will close in to force people out of the 
area and perhaps make arrests. It's usually best to end things just before this happens, 
in order to come out ahead and ensure a positive experience for everyone — but remem- 
ber, police will often try intimidation tactics before they do anything else, so it's good 
to develop an instinct for when they are bluffing. Make sure that everyone can disperse 
safely from the area, and that the police won't know which cars parked nearby belong 
to people attending the event. When it's time to go, precious materials can be secreted 
nearby and picked up later if need be. 

Have a legal group ready to bail out anyone who is arrested, and if possible a lawyer to 
handle cases related to the event. At the beginning of the event, cards can be distributed 
with a number to call in case of arrest. 

One more hint: during the preparation process, on top of everything else you have to 
do to get ready, let your collaborators know you will be bringing a special surprise to the 
event. Challenge them to reciprocate. 


Reclaim the Streets 

In DC, we have had two Reclaim the Streets actions (and a few other actions that were 
not specifically billed as RTSs, but fashioned similarly.) This is an account from the first 
DC Reclaim the Streets, which took place on Saturday, June 23, 2001. 

A small group of us started planning for the action a couple of months before the 
action date. During the first two meetings we talked about our vision for the event and 
how to organize it. In the second meeting we broke into working groups: outreach, tacti- 
cal (and blockading, which in this case meant cars), art, and fiin and games. The groups 
met independentiy and shared information with the other groups on a need-to-know 

basis. For example, I was in the core organizing group, but not in the tactical group, so 
I didn't know until the morning of the event what the final destination was — and only 
learned it then because I needed to drop off some supplies in advance. Others in the 
core groups did not know the location until we arrived. This was very important: for 
our plan to succeed, we needed the element of surprise so we could set up roadblocks 
without the police knowing what was happening. 

The outreach group made hundreds of full-color posters and fliers. The front of 
the fliers read, "Street Party! Converge at Dupont Circle, 3 p.m., Saturday, June 23, 
Featuring: DJs [followed by the names of the five DJs], Free! Reclaim the Streets!" 
and featured our web address and a picture of people dancing. The back read, "Fea- 
turing live DJs, dancing, music, street theater & soccer. Bring chalk, toys (especially 
water toys and Frisbees), boomboxes, banners, signs, and costumes. Stepping ojEf the 
sidewalks and into the streets brings us together and allows us to challenge the dehu- 
manization of our lives. A street party is a liberated zone, where we can practice life 
as we'd like it to be — full of color, community, and mutual aid." We wanted the poster 
to be appealing to a broad range of people, from rave kids and activists to parents and 
children. We also made 11" x 17" posters and hung them on lampposts all over town 
using wheatpaste (see Wheatpasting, pg. 598). 

The tactical group was in charge of deciding where to hold the event, what route to 
take to get there, and how to blockade the road so we could hold the area we wanted 
for as long as possible. In our larger group, we chose the meeting point for the action, 
Dupont Circle. This convergence point was publicly announced on the fliers. We chose 
Dupont because it was a public park where a large number of people cotdd converge on 
a summer day without attracting too much attention, it was accessible by public trans- 
portation, and, as a number of roads departed from the circle, it would be diihcult for 
the police to block our exit from it. 

PVC pipe is breakable, structurally 
unsound, environmentally 
destructive, and inferior in countless 
other ways. You can use bamboo, 
wood, or meta! pipe to do just about 
anything it can do, and better. 

Reclaim the Streets 

A subgroup of the tactical group was the car group, who were responsible for finding 
and getting old cars that could run enough to get a few miles but were such junkers 
that it would be no loss to leave them behind. They ended up paying a couple hundred 
dollars, in cash, for two cars. The previous owners signed over the titles to the cars to 
the fake names the buyers gave them; for a later action, we were able to get cars for free 
with a Httle more time and searching. It was also members of the car group who, on the 
morning of the action, drove the cars to the two ends of the street we were to reclaim, 
acted as if the cars had broken down in the middle of the street, and then pretended to 
look to see what was wrong with the cars while actually disabling them so they would be 
difficult to move. Later, their tires were slashed, too. Only the tactical group knew who 
was in the car group, since the car people were in a high-risk position. 

The arts group spent the months leading up to the event making beautifiil banners 
and flags, which were carried in the march to the RTS destination and hung over the 
broken-down cars and at the entrance to the party. They also made large paper mache 
props — including a huge sun, moon, and lightning bolt (the RTS symbols), which were 
carried in the parade and used to decorate the party. 

The fiin and games group gathered lots of games and props to be used during the par- 
t)^ — including multiple games of Twister, hundreds of water balloons, chalk, spray paint, 
jump ropes, and noisemakers. This group also spent some time diunpstering couches, 
chairs, road cones, and general junk for decorating the site and helping to block the road. 

We probably should have had a fundraising group, since we did shell out a good deal 
of money and fundraising did not end up happening in a very organized way. We were 
able to collect quite a bit of money, though, by walking around the RTS with large trash- 
cans suggesting that people "throw their money away"! 
Reclaim the Streets ^ ^^S problem with our organizing that we have tried to address since our first RTS 

428 is gender and experience divisions between the working groups. To illustrate, the tacti- 

cal group was made up entirely of men who were experienced activists and friends, 
while the other groups were made up of women and many of the men who were less 
experienced in activism. This division, in which men do the "sexy" up-front work while 
women do the behind-the-scenes preparatory work, was fairly common in some of DCs 
activist groups. Having experienced people who know each other do high-risk actions 
together can make sense, but it can also be an excuse to avoid sharing skills, diffusing 
power, or taking on more thankless jobs. Each action should be an opportunity for new 
people to learn new skills and new challenges, and to challenge gender, racial, and other 
barriers to taking on new roles. 

On the day of the event, between one and two hundred people met at Dupont Circle 
and walked en masse to our destination. During the walk, one Starbucks coffee shop 
window was broken. Our destination was a busy street with lots of pedestrian traffic, in 
a moderate-income neighborhood with a diverse population that included many people 
of our own demographic (so we weren't taking over someone else's neighborhood). The 
three-block area we occupied had lots of independent businesses and some corporate 
ones, and would be great as a pedestrian walkway — so that's what we created for one day. 
The ends of the street were blocked off with the cars, couches, and other "junk," but we 
left one alley open through which we could escape or at least get the DJ equipment out if 
the police came in, and which cars that were "trapped" in the area could use to exit. 

From most standpoints this RTS was a great success. Pirate radio people set up a 
broadcast simultaneous with the action to announce the events, encourage participa- 
tion, and provide music for the walk to the end point. We had perfect weather, a mobile 
sound system and DJs, drum circles, free food from Food Not Bombs, Twister games, 
chalk and spray paint art, stilt walkers, propagandists, literature inviting onlookers to 
join, banners proclaiming "Free the City, Kill the Car, Reclaim the Streets," skateboard- 
ers who used the old cars as ramps, children playing double-dutch, and more. 




fe :- 

" ■ ...- i^ 



i' . 

Reclaim the Streets 

of course, we also had some police nearby — but surprisingly, they did not break up 
the RTS or come inside our temporary autonomous zone. As this was the first RTS in 
DC, the police were totaUy confused by what was happening. I overhead some cops dis- 
cussing the situation: "They must have a permit. I mean, they wouldn't do this without 
a permit . . . would they?" It took them a couple of hours to figure out that yes, we would 
and were holding a street party without a permit. They then informed the crowd that we 
had to leave at six p.m. or they would arrest everyone. Since our purpose for this action 
was to have a day party and we were not prepared to hold the area longer than that, we 
agreed, but said that we would walk together (in the streets!) to a park about eight blocks 
away so people who wanted to could continue to hang out there. So, after four hours of 
reclaiming that space, we went mobile again, walked to the park, hung out, and then 
dispersed at our leisure from there. 

Reclaim the Streets 

How to Build a Rocketstove 


This is an amazingly efficient way to extract the maximum amount of energy from lim- 
ited stove fuel resources. In our final test before composing this, we made a large pot 
of old-style whole oat cereal boil for two hours with just a three-foot two-by-four that we 
yanked off a pallet. 

Five steel food cans: Ingredients 

Two 15-ouNCE CANS — the most common size of vegetable cans 

One 26-ounce can — this less common size is proportionately taller than regular cans; 

beans ofien come in cans this size 
Two one-gallon cans — these can be found in restaurant dumpsters, especially those of 

pizza restaurants 
Annealed tie wire — available at hardware stores by that name; this is made for tying 

rebar together in steel-reinforced concrete 
Insulation — You can use cob, a mixture of clay, sand, and straw, but ashes work better. 

If you don't have enough, you can add perlite or vermiculite, which are both available at 

garden stores as soil additives. 
Can opener Tin snips Pliers 

Drill with hole-saws (optional) Permanent marker 431 




^ — "O 1 



1 ^:^z 

— — ^i 


1 OAL 

26 OZ 


15 OZ 





— 15DZ 



— 1S0I 



— 1gal 



\ W// ///// 1 

3» SHELF 1 

Hoiv iQ Make a Rocketstove 

Using the can opener, cut off the top and bottom of the two 15 -ounce cans, making 
them into tubes; cut off the top of the 26-ounce can; cut off the top of one one-gallon 
can; cut off the top and bottom of the other one-gallon can. Save the top from one of 
the one-gallon cans. 

Remove the labels, glue, and food residue from all cans. 

Hold the bottom of the 26-ounce can to the side of one one-gallon can, about one inch 
from the bottom. Trace the circumference of the smaller can onto the side of the larger 
can so you will know what size hole to cut. Use your tin snips to cut the hole in the one- 
gallon can. You may want to cut the hole slightly small at first, then remove more if need 
be; you want these joints to be fairly tight. 

Hold the 15-ounce can to the side of the 26-ounce can — all the way at the bottom this 
time — and trace it. Use tin snips to cut the hole in the 26-ounce can. Make sure the 
smaller can fits snugly in the larger can. 

Make a two-inch cut lengthwise in one of the two 15-ounce cans. This will allow the 
can to squeeze and fit snugly in the end of the other. Now you have a steel tube about 
two cans long. This is your chimney. 

Cover the bottom of the one-gallon can with insulation. The insulation should come 
up to the level of the bottom of the hole you have cut. 

Put the 26-ounce can through the hole in the one-gallon can so that the hole you cut 
is in the center facing up. This is your firebox. 

Squeeze the chimney cans into the hole in the 26-ounce can. Adjust the position of 
the cans so the chimney is in the center of the one-gallon can. Make sure you haven't 
shoved it so far into the 26-ounce can that it blocks too much airflow. You can also cut 
a bit of material away from the bottom of the chimney to fiirther accommodate airflow 
when there is a fire. 

Pack the remaining space between the inner cans and the one-gallon can with insula- 
tion. If you have used cob for insulation, it will take a while for this to dry and begin to 
insulate. You can speed this process by poking holes in the one-gallon can, leaving it in 
the sun, or running the stove. If you run the stove with wet insulation, you will get less 
heat to the pot and there will be less "draw" — ^the flames will not be as readily sucked up 
into the chimney where you want them. This should improve greatly as the cob dries. 

Use the lid that you saved from the other one-gallon can to make a shelf for the fire- 
box. The shelf should be a bit lower than the middle of the firebox. It should also be 
shorter than the firebox, so the space direcfiy under the chimney is undivided. Fuel will 
go on top of this shelf; ash will fall dov^m and collect underneath. 

Your rocket stove is now complete, except for a pot rack. That is what the second one-gal- 
lon can is for. Cut a series of large holes along the top of this can so air can flow, but leave 
enough space between the holes that the can remains strong. SHce the can lengthwise so it 
can expand to fit over the other can, and slice a few inches off its bottom aU the way around. 
Slide the sliced can over the other gallon can, so the former extends one or two inches 
above the latter; this is the rack on which your pot will sit. The chimney is your burner. 

Wrap tie wire around the sliced can, and use pliers to twist it tightly so it is squeezed 
firmly around the other gallon can. You should tie at least three wires to hold the rack. 
Remember, the weight of your pot and food will rest on this rack. 

To use the stove, place it on a level, steady surface that is high enough off the ground 
that you have easy access to the firebox. Use a hatchet to make small pieces of wood. 
Wood should be up to the diameter of a finger. Use paper and smaller wood kindling to 
start the fire. You can set and fight the fire at the opening of the fire box, then shove it to 
the back under the chimney when it gets going. Be careful not to choke the stove — ^keep 
half or more of the volume of the firebox open to airflow. 


POT. ^„^^ 

w^ 1 

-^ ^ 

I ' 



i — WIRE 1 

ill 1 



( ^^TIES ^ 

9 1 


1 POT^ 




1 ' 










~ i 



How to Make a Rocketstove 

when your fire is established, you can begin to cook. This is probably a two-person 
job: one to cook, the other to stoke. The stove bums the small pieces of wood very fast 
and requires constant attention. If your insulation is good and you are burning hot 
enough, the stove will produce very litde ash. You shouldn't have to empty it until the 
end of one cooking session. 

Tips To further increase efficiency, put a lid on your pot and pile bricks onto the Hd — the 
more, the better. This creates a low-tech pressure cooker, decreasing cooking time. 

You can use longer pieces of wood by letting the wood hang out of the firebox, advanc- 
ing the pieces into the fixe as they are consumed. 

Hoii' to Make a Rocketstove 


If you are going to be involved in sabotage, you should remove yourself from high- Instructions 

profile activism, resolve old warrants and speeding tickets, and otherwise arrange to 

appear to be a law-abiding citizen. You should be able to glide through a routine traffic 

stop without occasioning any suspicion. Anyone can engage in everyday resistance, but 

if your chosen approach to subversion includes serious illegal activity, you'll do well to 

make things as difficult as possible for those whose job it is to catch you. As they say, 

sometimes you have to obey the small laws to break the big ones. 

Before you even consider carrying out an act of sabotage, you presumably have estab- Brainstorming 
lished your general goals as a political activist or subversive. The possibility of sabotage 
comes up when you move on to working out a strategy to achieve those goals. Perhaps 
you need to draw the public eye to an injustice that would outrage everyone, if only they 
heard about it; perhaps you want to destroy the means by which a corporation or institu- 
tion is carrying out its misdeeds, or at least provide it with a deterrent; perhaps you want 
to inspire your fellow activists or dissidents, and demonstrate a model for resistance 
in the process. If sabotage seems like it could be an effective element of your strategy, 
consider the possible targets, the actions you can take against them, and the means by 
which to do so. 

Your action should be in proportion to the seriousness of the issues, the importance 
of the target, and tiie means at your disposal, and you should be prepared to handle all 425 


the potential consequences. If the effects of your action will be publicized, take into ac- 
count the ways different tactics will play out In the public eye. Think hard about how to 
minimize risk, expense, and difficulty while maximizing effectiveness; through every 
step of the planning, consider if there is a simpler, safer way to achieve the same ends, 
and whether you are prepared for the risks you will run. 

Consider the effects of your action in a broader context. Who will it inspire, who will 
it intimidate? Will it provoke more surveillance or repression of your community, or 
infighting within it.^ If so, is it worth it, and how will you deal with these consequences? 
Don't draw attention to an important target with a small action if you or others may 
desire to do something more serious with it later. Recognize that the authorities can 
use your acts of sabotage as propaganda to their own ends; think about how to offset or 
undercut this. 



From the time you begin considering a target to the moment before you strike, you 
will be doing reconnaissance, and the quality of this preparatory work vidll determine 
whether your action is a success or a failure. First, research the target and everything 
related to it — from a computer in a public space, for example, or by stopping by a tourist 
center or signing up for a guided tour. Be sure that anyone who does such investigation 
cannot be connected to the act of sabotage later. 

Gather maps; if possible, get aerial photographs of the area and floor plans of any build- 
ings. You can often obtain these on the internet. Make your own maps, combining the 
features of the maps you assemble with the information your scouting missions provide. 
CarefiiUy check these maps against reality on subsequent scouting missions. Don't risk 
conspiracy charges by keeping maps of or notes about potential targets in your home. 

To the extent that it's possible without attracting attention, become intimately famil- 
iar with the site of your intended action and the area surrounding it. It may be most 

advantageous for the people who do the bulk of the scouting not to be involved in the 
action; all the same, everyone who will be on the site in the action should spend time 
there, not just the scouts. Ideally, conduct a dry run, with everyone who will engage in 
the action participating. If need be, take photographs to study, but do so very subtly, and 
don't develop them in such a way that there is evidence of your reconnaissance. 

While scouting, make note of schedules, security, random^ traffic, and the nearness of 
and travel time from locations such as police stations that may launch a response. Staff 
hours, garbage collection, janitorial service, the times at which trains pass by — anything 
pertinent should be knowTi to you. Trash can often provide important intelligence on a 
corporation or institution (see Dumpster Diving, pg. 219). Keep an eye out for items in the 
area that can be applied in your action; the less you have to take in and out on the big 
day, the better. Survey the surroundings: are there heavy woods that could provide cover, 
or consumer outlets where people can be camouflaged as customers? Pay attention to 
changes in the area over the course of successive scouting missions, to minimize the 
chances that any significant ones will occur unexpectedly between the last scouting mis- 
sion and the action. Scout at various times of day and night, but especially at the time of 
day when your action will take place; if need be, post a full-time watch. You may need to 
test whether and where there are security systems, and measure the speed and scale of 
the response; be careful not to give anything away in the process. Since your action likely 
depends on the element of surprise, you should probably cancel your plans if anything 
compromises this at any point during reconnaissance. 

Finally, consider precedents for your action. Chances are someone has attempted some- 
thing similar; learn what you can about how it went, and lay your plans accordingly. 

You can hinder logging in the last 
of our forests by spiking trees in 
woods that are to be cut. Using a 
big hammer, drive a nail at least six 
inches long into each trunk, above 
the level of your head, and cut off the 
heads of the nails or cover them with 
bark; repeat this process randomly 
throughout the v^oods, working in 
the rain if necessary to muffle the 
noise and using ceramic spikes if you 
need to outwit loggers with metal 
detectors. Inform the forest service 
that the trees have been spiked. 


Recruiting Sometimes you can carry ofFa simple act of sabotage or subversion on your own. In oth- 
er cases you will need a team to do so. This team should consist of the smallest number 
of people necessary to accomplish all of the tasks involved; the fewer people involved, 
the smaller the risk of misunderstandings and individual mistakes, and the stronger 
each participant's sense of personal responsibility. In larger groups, some people may 
drop out of the project in the course of your preparations, so be sure there are enough 
of you to provide for this possibility. If only a few people are needed, your affinity group 
(see Afinity Croups, pg. 28) should suffice; if more are called for, consider inviting other 
affinity groups to collaborate vidth you. Any large group working together should divide 
into smaller sub-groups, to simplify organization and decision-making. 

You should only invite people to work with you that you have reason to trust deeply. 
Every person you invite who opts not to participate is another needless security risk, so 
choose with care. Approach people with general questions first, in a private environ- 
ment, and only make your proposal if they express concrete interest in doing something. 
Individuals who aren't going to be working with you shouldn't even be aware of your 
interest in illegal activities; innocent speculations as to who carried out a well-known ac- 
You can put a blue filter on your *^°^ ^^^ ^^ extremely dangerous. The team that forms should be capable of cooperating 
flashlight: this will enable you to use it amicably in the most harrowing of situations. 

in the dark without ruining your night Bringing in Others means respecting them as equal participants in the project, with 

vision, and with much less chance of 1 • 1 • -n i • 1 

being seen by others. ^^ equal say m how it Will be earned out. Don't mvite people to work with you unless 

you respect their judgment and are wilhng to adjust your plans according to their per- 
spectives. Inevitably, some individuals will have more experience in a given field than 
others, and will be able to offer more pragmatic advice. At the same time, avoid a dy- 
namic in which everyone in the group counts on one or two members to get the dirty 
Sabotage work done; this centralizes skills that are better developed by all, and can result in your 
438 group developing an unhealthy, hierarchical structure. 

Planning and carrying out acts of sabotage requires tight security; before even consid- 
ering such an action, a group should be thoroughly versed in Security Culture (pg. 461). 
From the very beginning, you'll need to establish safe meeting places to lay plans. 
Ideally, these will be outside, or at least in a safe space not under any kind of surveil- 
lance or connected to any knovra activists. You may want to develop a cipher for com- 
municating about the action, or a pretext for getting together; but beware, a clumsy 
code is worse than none at all, and saying you're going to a wedding when no wedding 
is taking place can arouse more suspicion than it dispels. Keep your interactions vidth 
long-term companions in illegal activity to a minimum; go to see them in person when 
necessary, so there is no record of your association. It can be surprisingly easy to keep 
certain relationships and meetings secret simply by never mentioning them over email 
or telephone lines. 

If everyone is really concerned about information leaks and has great confidence in a 
small team of organizers, this team can withhold the identity of the target until the last 
possible point in the planning phase. The drawback to this approach is that it central- 
izes important information, which can unbalance group dynamics, increase risks, and 
put off possible participants. It is most useful for low-risk actions that are open to many 
participants, or high-risk actions to be carried out by a tight-knit team; for newer groups 
carrying out actions of mid-level risk, it can be important that everyone involved partici- 
pate in every stage of the discussion and planning. 


As soon as the core group of participants is established, you can begin holding meet- 
ings. Make sure everyone is happy with the format you choose for these (see "Facilitat- 
ing Discussions" in Affinity Groups, pg. 28), and that it is efficient and goal-oriented. At 
the first one, you should estabUsh the target, goals, security culture, and maximum level 
of risk, and work out how you will continue to get together. In the following meetings, 



scouts can share intelligence, and individuals can make tactical proposals for the group 
to amend until they comprise a plan with which everyone is comfortable. 

Such a plan must cover the full range of scenarios from best to worst case; the group 
should establish in advance under what circumstances they will call off the action. Don't 
underestimate your power — ^small numbers of people with litde funding can accomplish 
tremendous objectives — but be realistic. You should also establish structures to meet 
the needs of the action group; these can include communications, scouting, legal sup- 
port, supplies, food and housing, and media work. Individuals can choose roles within 
this framework, and sub-groups can form to focus on bottomlining specific tasks. Avoid 
letting routines develop in which the same individuals always take on the same tasks; 
the more skills each participant develops, the better. 

If the group organizing the action is composed of people from different regions, the 
locals will bear a larger portion of the responsibility to carry out reconnaissance; it may 
consequently be easier for them to compose plans, as well. Locals should be conscious 
of the potential imbalance of power this can create, and take care to extend to others 
whatever information and control they can. For security reasons, it can be wise to estab- 
lish an exchange program, in which one group organizes an action in its local area for 
another to carry out, and vice versa. Repression will be directed at those activists closest 
to the target area, but they can have airtight alibis in place. 

Action Camp 


In the last few days before a serious action, there is often a lot to do. This is particularly 
challenging when security concerns dictate that you and your companions should not 
be seen together during this period, especially not hard at work on some mysterious 
project; it may even be necessary to hide the presence of participants who have arrived 
from far away. To solve these problems, you can organize an action camp: in a secure 

location, such as the private lands of a trustworthy individual w^ho can be counted on not 

to notice anything, or a forgotten zone suitable for squatting or camping, get together 
for a short period of intensive preparation (see Thinktanks, pg. 550). In urban areas, 
the home of a vacationing trustworthy friend may suffice. Everyone should have an 
alibi — and not the same one! — going into the action camp. Organizing food and shelter 
for a group over a period of time can be taxing in itself; individuals who desire to play 
support roles can take responsibility for delivering food and other resources. Make sure 
that traffic in and out of the camp does not attract undue attention. 

During the planning phase, establish the potential legal repercussions of every action 
you are considering, so you can weigh these as you make decisions. If you're not ready 
to do the time, don't do the crime. Before carrying out any serious illegal act, you should 
have a legal support structure in place in case anyone is arrested (see Legal Support, pg. 
329). Be sure there are people not directly involved in the action who can provide legal 
support to arrestees, so no immediate link between them, the people supporting them, 
and the action can be made. 

Legal Preparations 

Sometimes weather wiW be integral to your plans — ^you might need a full moon for 
cross-country travel, or a new moon for cover of darkness or a rainstorm to soften noise. 
Snowfall can make it impossible to pass through an area without leaving a track, while 
hot weather might make you look more suspicious in your disguise. Schedule accord- 
ingly. Stay abreast of other developments; if there's a manhunt on in the area of your 
target the night of your action, you'd better know about it before you head out. 





Unless your action is to be carried out by one or two isolated individuals, you will need 
a secure and reliable system for communication and counter-surveillance. This could 
range from simply having the option for an emergency cancellation to be announced 
at the last minute, should something go awry, to several groups staying in close contact 
throughout the action. The more elaborate your communications structure, the more 
coordinated your activities can be; on the other hand, the more you rely on communica- 
tions technology, the greater the chance that your tiransmissions can be monitored, and 
the greater the confusion should communication break down. The simpler your com- 
munications structure is, tihe safer it is, and this goes for your plan in general. 

Scouts can be posted at entry points to await and announce police response, or can 
rove the area to keep tabs on security and passersby. A police scanner can be used to 
monitor police interactions, though it is illegal to use them from vehicles. A communica- 
tions center can be established, to which scouts and action groups report, and which is 
responsible for contacting other groups to pass along news and announcements; alterna- 
tively, information can be distributed by means of a "phone tree," hi which each person 
or group that receives a message is responsible for passing it on to a few others. 

Communications technology is constantly evolving, as are police surveillance tech- 
niques; keep up to date on your options. Two-way radios come in varying ranges; they 
can be monitored easily enough, especially if police are prepared to do so, and often 
fail to work when they are most needed, but they can be used to contact a number of 
different people instantaneously, and if unmonitored they leave no record of use. Cell 
phones work more reliably and over much longer ranges, and are not quite as easy to 
monitor, assuming they are not already tapped; on the other hand, they leave a perma- 
nent record of where, when, and to whom calls were made. A cell phone borrowed from 
a noncombatant or registered to a fictitious owner is much safer than a personal cell 
phone. This is the only kind of phone you should use in a serious action. 

On the day or night of the action, go over every step of the plan together, with each par- Action 
ticipant describing his or her role. This will provide crucial clarity and reassurance. 

Your plans should specify the order in which activities are to be carried out; they 
should take into account the amount of time each activity will require, providing for 
transportation time as well. Everyone whose actions are to be coordinated should have 
synchronized watches. A full route, including alternate escape routes (see Evasion), 
should be charted for everyone involved — not just in and out of the target site, but all 
the way from the starting point of the day's events to their conclusion when everyone is 
safely dispersed. This route should be planned so as to leave as little record as possible 
of the movements of those who participate in the action; avoid toll roads, for example, 
and surveillance cameras at gas stations. 

If there are getaway drivers, it's better for them to return at a predetermined time 
or when called for than to wait around attracting the attention of neighbors or passing 
police. Have your time budgeted in advance, and adjust your plans as you go in order 
to avoid awkward situations. If you have a time established in advance to be picked up, 
and it takes longer than you'd expected to get onto the site from your drop-off and pick- 
up location, set aside the same amount of extra time for getting back, and subtract that 
from the time you had planned to have on the site. 

You should have backup plans worked out, in case something goes wrong, and es- 
tablish what conditions will prompt you to switch from one plan to the next. Everyone 
should have an alternate mode of transportation available in case they cannot leave the 
area by the planned means, and should carry cab or bus fare if applicable. 

Make sure you have the necessary tools for the job, but take nothing extraneous with 
you — nothing potentially incriminating, nothing needlessly heavy, nothing you might ac- 
cidentally lose. After the action, destroy all the tools you used, or, if you're sure the action sabotage 
was not dramatic enough to provoke a serious investigation, keep them far away from 443 

any space associated with you. Make sure all other evidence is destroyed — every last map, 
every scribbled note, every piece of clothing you might have been seen wearing. 

Have an alibi prepared: arrange to have been seen in public, or to have a record — such 
as a parking lot ticket, movie stub, or campground receipt from a location you are cer- 
tain is not under surveillance — of your activities away from the scene of the crime. Don't 
ever speak of the action again, except within the group with whom you accomplished it, 
and even then only under secure conditions. There are two exceptions to this: if you are 
caught, tried, and sentenced for an action, you can speak about the actions for which you 
were convicted, on the condition that you not give away anything about anyone else; and 
if you succeed in overthrowdng the government and all other oppressive institutions, 
you and your friends and everybody else like you will finally be free to own up to having 
participated in subversive activities back in the bad old days. Imagine the stories we'll all 
have to tell then! 

Communique and 
Press Coverage 


You may want to disguise your strike as an accident or a random act of vandalism, so as 
not to help investigators by narrowing the pool of suspects. On the other hand, if one of 
your goals is to attract public attention, you will do well to take publicity into your own 
hands. The best of sabotage actions can go unnoticed or even be deliberately covered up, 
unless they are accompanied by compelling and wide-ranging media campaigns. 

The simplest way to do this is to issue a communique. This is essentially a press re- 
lease (see Mainstream Media, pg. 358}: it should begin by covering the who, what, when, 
and where of an action, then explain why it was carried out and elaborate on the broader 
goals behind it. It should be written simply and precisely, in a generic writing style that 
will not give away the identity of the author or authors. Mainstream press coverage will 
include a sentence or two of the communique at best, so make sure every line of it is 
eloquent and capable of standing alone. Sometimes humor can be helpful for getting 

your point across and maintaining readers' attention; tiiis is most useful if your com- 
munique is going to be published in full somewhere, such as on an independent news 
website. Include a link to an informative webpage or two, if possible, keeping in mind 
that this can also bring attention or repression to those who host them. 

Sending a communique can be one of the riskiest parts of an action. It should go out 
from a one-time-only email account on a public computer, and the person who sends 
it should be careful not to be detected approaching, using, or leaving the computer. At 
best, it should be sent from an area far away from the action and the homes and haunts 
of those who carried it out. Alternatively, it can be sent through the mail— but the text 
should not be composed on a computer tied to any of the participants, and the paper, 
envelope, and stamp should never be touched without gloves on. 

A simple text communique is often not enough to capture attention or convey the 
magnitude of an action. If possible, include photographs or video footage. One or more 
of the individuals involved in the action can be responsible for taking these during or af- 
ter the action (see independent Media, pg. 346). Be carefid that such footage doesn't pro- 
vide investigators with any useful information about your group. Independent media 
outlets are more likely to provide thorough and sympathetic coverage than mainstream 
media; if you don't know any independent media journalists you can trust to approach, 
you can anonymously tip them off or otherwise solicit their coverage. 

In addition to seeking mainstream and independent media coverage, you can also 
arrange to have news and explanations of your action presented directly to the public 
through autonomous means (see Banner Drops and Banner Hoists, pg. 75; Graffiti, pg. 
258; Newspaper Wraps, pg. 392; Stickering, pg. 520; Wi^eatpasting, pg. 598; also consider 
pirate radio). Consider how these can be used to communicate the necessary informa- 
tion without implicating those who apply them in greater crimes. 

To avoid having your footprints used 
against you in court, keep an extra 
pair of shoes stashed in a secret place 
outside your home to use for night 
work; wear extra socks, so you can 
use shoes a couple of sizes bigger 
than your feet. 



Approach and Entry 


Immediately after an action, make sure that everyone is safe and emotionally cared for, 
and that anyone who was arrested or injured receives support. Aside from taking care 
of this, split up and get quickly back to the business of being unremarkable law-abiding 
citizens. Resist the urge to rush to find each other and compare notes. Eventually, you 
may want to meet again, either in small groups or all together, to trade perspectives on 
what happened, but this will require at least as much security as your planning meet- 
ings did, since you may now be under suspicion. Consider limiting your involvement in 
aboveground political activities, but don't make any sudden dramatic changes in your 
lifestyle or commitments. It is less incriminating to maintain a visible routine than to 
drop out of sight completely. Keep your secrets to yourself and your wits sharp; often, 
the authorities won't strike until months or even years after an action, when they've had 
enough time to gather intelligence and prepare a case. 

If you have to pass fences, consider going through them rather than over them. If you 
have bolt cutters, this may take no longer than scaling them, and involves less risk of 
being spotted. With chain hnk fences, just cut the same thread of wire in the fence top, 
bottom, and three or four places in between, then pull out the vidre with your pliers. The 
fence will then just fall into two. Keep in mind that a cut fence, if discovered, will im- 
mediately alert an otherwise unsuspicious person. 

If you have to walk, try to stay off roads. If you need to drive, be aware of all the ways 
your vehicle can be tracked, including traffic cameras. Consult the recipe for Evasion (pg. 
234) for more details about transportation and getaway driving. 

If you have to cross a wall, you may need extra equipment. The simplest way is to 
bring your own ladder; if you leave this at your point of entry, however, it can attract at- 
tention, and if someone removes it you may be trapped. 

Ditches and rivers can provide good cover, but it's always better to work dry, so plan 

on exiting through one rather than entering, if possible. Remember that mud records 
footprints and other signs of human passage. 

If a gate is padlocked, use bolt cutters to remove the lock. If you have the option, it 
is easier to cut a chain than a lock, and easier to disguise. Never leave a cut padlock or 
chain in view — it's a sure sign that someone's inside. If need be, replace a cut lock with 
an identical padlock of your own. 

You can cover a vrindow or a portion thereof with duct tape before breaking it, if you 
want to do so quietly and without making a mess. 

Doors are often protected by alarms. If in doubt, you can always try going through the 
door itself, but the cutting operations will be noisy. 

Roofs can provide numerous access points. Watch for heating and air conditioning 
ducts, ventilation fans, attics, and crawlspaces. 

Avoid open areas, especially around factories and of&ces: they are likely to be under 
camera surveillance. 

In winter of 1992, my cell of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) was waging a direct 
action campaign against the North American fur farm industry. Our targets were the 
half-dozen recipients of funding from the Mink Farmers Research Foundation, a fur 
industry group sponsoring research to enable the intensive confinement of mink. The 
recipient of the greatest amount of funding was Richard Aulerich, the head of Michigan 
State University's Experimental Fur Farm program. For the past thirty years, he had ad- 
dressed the problems of disease encountered by the nation's then 600 fur farms. 

No one in our group had ever been on MSU's campus; for security reasons, we kept all 
the information we gathered on paper. Our goal was to destroy as much research as pos- 
sible, thereby setting back the efforts of mink researchers intent on further domesticat- 
ing and enslaving a native North American predator. If we decided it was safe, we would 



employ property destruction, specifically arson, to accomplish this end. We planned a 
reconnaissance mission for late February, when we would be driving across country- 
After a short visit with family friends in Michigan, another cell member and I cruised 
the MSU campus on a Sunday afternoon when it was less populated. A staff directory 
gave us the location of Aulerich's oflBce in Anthony Hall. I entered the stone building 
and walked around until I discovered that the rooms of the hall were separated from 
adjoining research offices by the old building's brick walls. This fact, and the general 
emptiness of the building during odd hours, indicated that it was safe to use arson to 

destroy the records. 
You can use a small and easily j /r 

concealed pair of tin snips, N^^' ^^ ^^^^^^ off campus to the surrounding countryside of East Lansing, where 

available at all hardware stores, to most of MSU's agricultural research facilities were located. At Oregon State University, 

cut barbed wire, razar wire, and ^^ had found the Experimental Fur Farm near the poultry research farm, and in Michi- 
cnain-lml< fences; use bolt cutters . r / > 

for larger locks. 8^^ ^^ ^^^ the same: the long barns of the poultry and mink farm were hidden against 

nearby woods, only a hundred yards from a state highway where a person or team could 

be dropped off and picked up. 

We decided that the action could be carried out with only two people. Security was lax 
enough that minimal reconnaissance could determine our entry and exit points, as well 
as the frequency of security patrols and the direction from which a response would be 
mounted from the police station. We rented a car similar to those in MSU's own motor 
pool, and watched Anthony Hall all night from a parking lot on the same day of the week 
that we planned to carry out our action. I noticed numerous ground floor windows in the 
building that could be unlocked from inside easily and wdthout attracting any attention. 

Earlier the same night, 1 had been dropped on the shoulder of the state highway adjacent 
to the wooded area behind the Experimental Fur Farm and research bam. In the dead of 
Sabotage ^nter, the facility had no electronic or physical security beyond the nightly random patrols 
448 of campus police, who we never saw entering the long dirt road leading to the facility. 

As I neared the complex of buildings, I began by scouting the perimeter for signs of 
sophisticated motion detectors or infrared detectors; there were none. Next, I examined 
the construction of the research bam that we wanted to enter. Avoiding windows and 
doors, the most likely places for alarms, I climbed onto the roof of the building and 
discovered that the corrugated sheet metal panels comprising the roof could be partially 
removed, enough to allow me to crawl into the attic space and then into the building via 
an access door in the ceiling. 

The heart of our target was Aulerich's office, which we knew would contain the re- 
cords of his ongoing research. Nonetheless, this might be the only time his research 
would be attacked, so we decided we should cause as much damage as possible by also 
removing the breeding records of the 250 breeder mink Aulerich had on the farm, de- 
stroying farm research equipment, and, if time permitted, rescuing a few hostages. 

After the night's reconnaissance, we completed the journey we had told friends we 
were taking, arriving in Washington D.C. from Michigan as planned. After we'd estab- 
lished a local presence there among aboveground activists, one cell member and I drove 
back to Michigan. We rented a hotel room thirty miles from MSU, vidth outdoor access 
so no one would see us coming and going. Even during our earlier trip, we hadn't so 
much as gassed up in East Lansing, not wanting to be seen by surveillance cameras or 
people in the same town as the college we intended to strike. 

On the day of the action, in a car rented by a local friend who wouldn't ask ques- 
tions, we drove the route of our planned approach and escape to ensure there were no 
changes. Next, my comrade tested the police scanner, which was programmed with the 
frequencies of the MSU Police, while I went to work assembling a timed incendiary 
device out of components purchased far away while on the east coast. 

All the ingredients were nationally distributed items; 1 removed all identifying serial sabotase 
numbers, such as the one on the kitchen timer. Once the device was completed, 1 gently 449 

packed it with its battery disconnected into a small Tupperware container, and threw 
away all the remaining electrical wire, soldering gun, and wire cutters — all traceable 
items, and none as valuable as freedom. 

After years of breaking into buildings, I had refined my fanny pack toolkit to include 
just a few items; a small pair of "Vise-Grip" locking pliers, indispensable for remov- 
ing small screws such as those in the roofing material; a Leatherman-type multi-tool; 
a small pry bar or large screwdriver; a flashlight that could be held in the mouth; and a 
knife with a serrated edge for cutting screen, insulation, sheetrock, or even steel cable 
and sheet metal. Last but not least, I carried the official ALF key, a small pair of bolt cut- 
ters for small locks such as those on the mink bams and file cabinets. 

With just two people, there is less room for mistakes. First, we would visit the Ex- 
perimental Fur Farm. We had agreed on the pick-up spot, and planned only to use our 
reliable radios as a backup. I would have my radio on at all times with silence being the 
continuing signal for "all clear." If I needed more time, I would take it, and radio when 
1 was ready to be picked up. My driver would be listening to the police scanner while 
watching for abnormal activity. 

At 11:30 p.m., I was dropped on the shoulder of the state highway behind MSU's 
Experimental Fur Farm. In just a few minutes, I was approaching the main research 
barn; it was black against the moonless night. Taking a ladder from the farm, I climbed 
onto the roof and quickly used my small locking pliers to remove enough sheet metal 
screws to pry back the panel enough for me to crawl through. One last glance to ensure 
I hadn't been seen, and I was in. I crawled through the attic, removed a ceiling panel, 
and shone my flashlight into the darkened research bam. The room was filled with feed 
mixers, refrigerators, and other fur farm equipment. I lowered myself from the ceiling. 
Sabotage dropped into the room, and listened to my radio for any sign that I might have set off" a 
4S0 motion-detecting alarm. 

It was still silent. I moved to the small office in the comer of the research barn, and 
inspected the thin hoEow-core wooden door for an alarm. None was visible, so I pulled 
the pins from the door's hinges with my multi-tool, then removed the entire locked door 
without a struggle. 

All the breeding records and other data necessary for the fiir farm's operation were 
inside the ofEice. I dumped computer discs, slides, and paperwork onto the floor. In a 
freezer, I discovered dozens of softball-sized balls wrapped in aluminum foil. I opened 
one; it contained an otter's head. 

Everything inside the freezers and refrigerators went onto the floor. Lastly, I pulled 
a can of red spray paint from my pack and wrote, "MICHIGAN MINK MILITIA," 
the walls. The last statement referred to the lone otter I had found in a long concrete 
cage among the mink bams. On my way out of the barn, I poured two gallons of hydro- 
chloric acid I had found inside into the machinery and electrical equipment and over 
the paperwork on the floor. Knowing now that there were no alarms, I left the building 
through a door. 

The last stop at the experimental fiar farm was the mink bams, where I stripped each 
cage of its breeder identification card. With the cards stuffed in my pack, I picked two 
mink to rescue, and transferred them into their detachable nest boxes. By the time I had 
set these boxes in some bushes close to the state highway and radioed for a pick-up, an 
hour and a half had passed since I was dropped off". Within minutes, my getaway driver 
was flashing the brights of the car, signaling before pulflng to a stop. 

After a quick stop at a gas station to dump the breeding cards, I exchanged my pack 
for the one containing the incendiary device, and we drove to the MSU campus. My 
driver dropped me behind Anthony Hall, and parked at liie spot across from the build- 
ing from which we had done our reconnaissance. Walking briskly in the late winter 

You can slip a plastic bag over each 
shoe to obscure your footprints and 
prevent telltale soil from clinging to 
your soles. 


You can use cotton work gloves to 

keep your fingerprints ofl^ places they 

don't belong. Leather gloves should 

be avoided, as they leave their own 

unique fingerprints, and latex gloves 

are good for light work, but retain 

fingerprints on the inside — so be very 

careful how you dispose of them. 


night did not look suspicious, as it was cold. After glancing behind for anyone watching, 
I walked across the front of Anthony Hall to a ground floor window that was unlatched. 
I pulled the window open, lifted myself inside, and shut ft behind me. 

I peered around the comer, then climbed the flight of stairs to the first floor where 
Aulerich's office was located. I pulled a ski mask over my face, as this was the time I was 
most vulnerable to being seen. Kneeling before the door to the office, I pulled the small 
pry bar from my pack and broke the wooden ventilation slats in the door, then reached 
inside to unlock ft. Although I had inspected the office as best as I could from the out- 
side vnndows, it was still possible that breaking in would trigger an unseen alarm. My 
driver had the scanner, though, and would hear any university police dispatch. 

I stepped into Aulerich's office and went straight to work scavenging wood to serve as 
kindling once the incendiary device ignited. I pufted every file drawer out so the records 
would be destroyed by the firefighters' water, if not by the fire. I didn't bother destroying 
anything else, as the noise might attract attention and the fire would hopefiilly take care 
of everything. I placed the incendiary device below a pile of desk drawers, set the dial 
on the one-hour timer for 54 minutes, and set the exposed light bulb "trigger" on an 
opened Stemo liquid fiiel can. Just above ffie can were two two-liter plastic bottles filled 
with a mixture of fiiel and oft; when they melted, they would dump the flammable liquid 
over the wood. 

Suddenly I saw the famftiar reflection of red and blue Hghts from ffie road that passed 
in front of Anthony Hall. I didn't panic, though I knew a University Police cruiser was 
close enough that I could yell to ffie cop from Aulerich's window. I trusted that my 
lookout would radio if ffiere were a ffireat. It was a routine traffic stop, and after a few 
minutes, boffi the police officer and ffie driver he had pulled over were on ffieir way I 
re-set ffie timer to its maximum, connected ffie 9-volt battery to ffie incendiary device, 
and exited the way I had come. 

Looking like a student returning from a late night of studying, I walked across the 
lawn of Anthony Hall to the sidewalk; within seconds my ride pulled past, slowing down 
enough for me to climb in. We drove straight to the state highway, where we collected 
the two patient mink that still awaited the final stage of their liberation. When dawn 
broke, we were hiking along the shore of Muskrat Lake, carrying the two nest boxes. 
Beside a creek, we opened the boxes and watched the mink swim in moving fresh water 
for the very first time in their lives. 

At approximately 4:35 a.m. on February 28, 1992, a fire tore through the offices of 
Richard Aulerich destroying thirty-two years of accumulated and ongoing mink industry 
research worth an estimated two million dollars. At the Experimental Fur Farm, irreplace- 
able breeding records were stolen or destroyed, along with over $125,000 in research 
equipment, $100,000 of which was not insured. The two missing mink were never seen 
again. Later, a communique relayed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals would 
announce that the Animal Liberation Front had accepted responsibility for the fourth at- 
tack in eight months on a recipient of Mink Farmer Research Foundation funding. 

Back at the hotel room, the mission accomplished, I penned a press release and in- 
cluded it in a FedEx box containing slides, a videotape, computer discs, and research re- 
cords from Aulerich's office. As I approached the Fedex drop-off box, the driver arrived 
to pick up the packages; our eyes met, and I knew then that I had made a crucial mistake 
that might cost me my freedom. 

The package was addressed to a house that, unbeknovmst to me, was also a safe 
house for ALF material including my own hand-drawn maps of a primate research 
facility I was casing, and other equipment including night vision goggles. The package 
never arrived; it was intercepted and turned over to the FBI, due to the expired account 
number I had used. What did arrive at the house was a FBI task force with search war- sabotage 
rants, who kicked in the door and seized our gear. 45J 

You can clean fingerprints from an 

object with hot water and soap, or, in 

an emergency, by rubbing vigorously 

with a cloth. Don't forget the details: 

even if you clean the outside of the 

flashlight, there may be fingerprints 

on the batteries within. 


The action was a success, but I'm only able to tell you this story because I made a mis- 
take that resulted in my being convicted. Luckily, it only cost me four years of freedom. 
Federal agents may not be that smart, but they are patient, waiting for your cell's one 
fatal error. Don't be discouraged: our enemies still have weaknesses, and even the most 
fortified target has its weak link. Find it, break it, and continue forward! 




Staple gun and staples 
Photo emulsion kit — comes 

with photo emulsion and sensitizer 

Darkroom or closet 

Clear tape or clean heavy piece oe glass 

Shower or hose 

Two lOO-wATT bulbs and lamps 

Ink — If you are printing on fabric, you will 
need acrylic textile ink or oil-based textile 
ink (also called plastisol) and paint thinner 
or turpentine. Basic acrylic inks and paint 
work for posters and similar media. 

Fabric, cardstock, or some other 
material to be decorated 


You can use tatex house paint 
to silkscreen patches and shirts 
and posters; because it is thinner 
than screening ink, it works best 
on bold designs, and not at all on 
photographic images or halftones. 
Work fast; it dries swiftly. 

Design or choose an existing high-contrast black and white image. This image should 
conform to the same parameters as an image you could make into a stencil (see Stencil- 
ing, pg. 516); the difference is that with screenprinting, you can print much finer detail, 
and even make areas appear gray by use of dots. 

You might have to make a negative of the image. Some self-serve photocopiers have 
this function; if not, ask the people behind the counter at a photocopy shop to do it. 

Basically, whatever is black on your starting image will be the printing area on your 
finished screen. Whatever is black will be ink. 


Preparing an Image 


You can get straps and plastic 

latches for clothes and bags free off 

shopping carts that feature seatbelts 

for children. 

You need to consider what color ink you will use on what color fabric or paper before 
determining whether the image should be printed or should be formed out of negative 
space. It is very important to get this right, especially when dealing with pictures. 

Next, make a transparency of the image — ^you might have to ask for help from the 
people behind the counter again. Make sure the black parts are dark. For larger designs, 
you may need to tape two or more transparencies together; if so, be precise. 

Making a Screen 

76. J 







This is a job for two. Acquire a frame. You could buy one already made, but what are 

l^J you, a consumer? Reuse old frames, cutting canvas off 

them if need be, or dumpster wood that you can cut to 
size. Worst-case scenario, buy wood at a hardware store or 
lumber yard, and have them cut it for you. Miter the cor- 
ners by cutting the ends at 45-degree angles (figure 16. i). 
This will make a super-sturdy frame. 

Staple the frame together on every side that you can. Try 
to do this on a level surface: the frame must lay totally flat. 
Stretch the screen mesh over the frame. You will need 
approximately two inches extra to work with on every edge, so keep that in mind while 
cutting. Have one person stretch and the other staple. I have found the best way to 
staple is by stapling alternating sides {figure 16.2). This enables you to stretch the screen 
evenly. Put in one staple every inch and a half or so the first time around. Leave the cor- 
ners for last. You should stretch it so tight your fingers start to hurt. Once you've stapled 
around the frame once, go around a second time. This time, stretch the screen tight be- 
tween every two staples with your thumb, pointer, and middle fingers, and add another 
staple {figure 16.3). Last, stretch and staple the corners. Feel the screen; it should feel 
tight with no bumps or slack. Wherever these appear, repeat stretching and stapling. 

When the screen is totally stretched, you can trim the extra mesh around the edges, but 
leave at least 1/4" from the staples so the screen won't tear. 

Prepare a darkroom. It needs to be pretty dark, but a crack of light here or there is all 
right. 1 use my closet. Set up the fan in the darkroom so that it can blow on your screen 
when you put it in there. 

This next step you can do with the lights on, but you must work quickly because the 
mixture you are about to make will become hght-sensitive as soon as it starts drying. For 
screens sized to print one or two shirts at a time, mix 4 tablespoons of photo emulsion 
and I tablespoon of sensitizer in the bowl. For larger, smaller or multiple screens, you 
judge how much emulsion you will need — the ratio of emulsion to sensitizer will always 
be 4 to I. Make sure the emulsion is well mixed. Apply the emulsion to the screen with a 
spoon and squeegee (figure 16.4). It will be messy. Squeegee the firont and the back of the 
screen evenly. Go over it repeatedly to work the emulsion into and through the screen. 
Find a balance between too thick and too thin— this will come with practice. Try to pre- 
vent the emulsion from seeping under the frame; if it does, it will drip down later. You 
can leave the edges bare and cover them with masking or packing tape later, if you like. 

Lean the screen against a wall in the darkroom to dry, with the fan blowing on it. 
Leave the room with as little light exposure as possible, and wait about 15 to 25 minutes 
before flipping the screen to dry the other side. In another 15 to 25 minutes, carefully 
feel the screen to see if it is dry. If it is wet anywhere, wait longer. 

Applying Photo Emulsion 


Setting Up Your Light 

While the screen is drying in the darkroom, set up your lamps. Set these up so that the 

Ught falls evenly where the screen will be. You should lay the screen on a flat surface so 

light will only shine on the top of the screen. For bigger screens, you may need to shift screenprmting 

the hght every 5 minutes so that all areas will be evenly exposed. The lights should be 457 

Exposing the Screen 



between 12" and 18" from the screen. Practice will help you know the best distance for 
each different exposure. 

When the screen is totally dry, bring it out of the darkroom into a work area that is as dimly 
lit as possible, or turn on a dim Hght in the darkroom. Place the transparency on tibe top 
side of the screen. You need to put it on reversed, so if you were to look through the screen 
from the other side, the image would be facing the correct way Try to lay it as square as 
possible with the frame, so it will be easy to line up when you print. Lay your glass over the 
transparency, or tape the transparency flat to the screen exactly where you want it. 

Place the screen under the lights (figure 16.5). You will need to expose it for 20 to 40 
minutes, although if your image has many tiny details you should expose it for a bit less, 
as light can seep under and expose small Hnes in your design. Once again, practice will 
help you to determine the length of time for different designs. Try 30 minutes for your 
first screen. Make sure the comers of the screen get enough Hght, and that the center of 
the screen doesn't get too much. You can shift the lights around periodically to balance 
the exposure. During this part of the process, the light will "cook" the exposed emulsion 
onto the screen, so you will be able to wash off the parts that were hidden from the light 
by your transparency. 

After exposure, turn the lights off. Try to prevent the bottom of the screen from be- 
ing exposed to direct light. Bring the screen into the bathroom or to a hose and turn the 
water on cold. Remove the transparency and run the screen under the water. The water 
by itself should take off most of the unwanted emulsion; the rest you will have to rub off 
gently with your fingers. Do this on both sides. Hold the screen up to the light and check 
whether the emulsion has been totally removed in the areas that were blocked (figure 
16.6). If any remains, repeat the washing and rubbing process. Dry the screen wdth the 
fan again. You should let it completely dry — this will take about an hour. 

whenever you print, you should do two or three preliminary prints on scrap fabric 
or paper, to look for flaws — which can sometimes be fixed with tape on the top of the 
screen — and work the ink through the screen. 

Lay the screen on the fabric, top side down. Take a spoon and put a generous amount 
of ink along the top of the design. It's best to have two people for this step too, one to hold 
the screen and one to squeegee. Take the squeegee and gently cover the design with a 
thick layer of ink — ^you should not be able to see the design through the ink. Next, apply a 
good amount of pressure as you push the squeegee over it again. This time you are push- 
ing the ink through thie screen (figure 1S.7). Swipe over the design two or three times 
with good pressure. You can go in different directions, too. Every design is different — ^you 
will have to experiment to work out the right number of times to squeegee over it. 

To remove the screen, hold the fabric down with one hand and gently lifl: the screen 
with the other. You will be able to determine if you are using too much or too litde ink 
by looking at the prints. If the prints start to become distorted, you vrill need to wipe off 
the top of the screen with a rag; if you're using oil-based ink, use a bit of turpentine or 
thinner to do this. Also, afl:er a lot of prints, say thirty or so, the ink may start to harden, 
so you might want to take a break to wash and dry the screen. 



Clean off acrylic ink with the cold spray of the shower or hose. It is important that you 
clean the screen and tools immediately when using acrylic, as it dries swdftly. 

Clean up oil ink with paint thinner or turpentine and a bunch of rags. You can take 
your time with most oil ink, as it will take quite a while to dry on its own. Be aware, 
though, that there are air-drying oil inks that dry as quickly as acrylic. 





Multi-Color Printing 

You can turn a large t-shirt into a tighter, 

smaller one by laying a shirt of the 

intended size upon it, tracing around 

the smaller shirt, cutting away the 

excess, and restitching it (figure 0.5). 

Let acrylic ink on textiles or paper dry on its own. It could take between 15 minutes and 
2 hours depending on the ink, the material you are printing on, and the humidity. You 
can speed this process up with a hair dryer if you want. 

Oil ink will take weeks to dry on its own, so place your printed fabrics in the oven, 
and don't use oil inks on paper unless they are air-drying. After much experimenting, 
I have found that 5 to 10 minutes at 250-300 degrees Fahrenheit works well. You can 
put fabrics on a cookie sheet or tinfoil, or straight on the oven racks. Make sure noth- 
ing is hanging onto the element. My dad has a theory that if you're supposed to bake 
something for 20 minutes at 200 degrees, you can instead bake it for 10 minutes at 400 
degrees. This was proven wrong when I set two Catharsis hoodies on fire. Check on your 
materials often until you determine how many minutes it takes to dry them. You can 
also use a heat gun, available at hardware stores for peeling paint, to dry oil inks. 

You need to heat-set printed fabrics so that the ink doesn't come oflTin the wash. Iron the 
print on the reverse side for half a minute or so. 

Two-color designs require two screens, and three-color designs, three screens. It is the 
same process, but you will have to line up the second print carefully. You can get hinges 
and make a press so that you can know exactly where the screen will fall. 


Security Culture 

A security culture is a set of customs shared by a community whose members may engage in 
illegal activities, the practice of which minimizes the risks of such activities. Having a secu- 
rity culture in place saves everyone the trouble of having to work out safety measures 
over and over from scratch, and can help offset paranoia and panic in stressful situa- 
tions — hell, it might keep you out of prison, too. The difference between protocol and 
culture is that culture becomes unconscious, instinctive, and thus effortless; once the 
safest possible behavior has become habitual for everyone in the circles in which you 
travel, you can spend less time and energy emphasizing the need for it, or suffering the 
consequences of not having it, or worrying about how much danger you're in, as you'll 
know you're already doing everything you can to be careful. If you're in the habit of not 
giving away anything sensitive about yourself, you can collaborate with strangers with- 
out having to agonize about whether or not they are informers; if everyone knows what 
not to talk about over the telephone, your enemies can tap the line all they want and it 
won't get them anywhere." 

The central principle of all security culture, the point that cannot he emphasized enough, is 
that people should never he privy to any sensitive information they do not need to know. The 
greater the number of people who know something that can put individuals or projects 
at risk — whether that something be the identity of a person who committed an illegal 
act, the location of a private meeting, or a plan for future activity — tiie more chance 


*"But what about infiltrators and 
informers?" a Crimethlnc. agent asked 
long ago at hisfrst major mobilization. 
"We'll have them pee! potatoes, " was the 
casual reply from an experienced organizer. 


If you find an affinity group you trust 

in anotiier locale, your affinity group 

and theirs can set up an exchange 

program: with their assistance, you 

can carry out risky activities in their 

area witfiout the authorities' knowing 

who it is, and vice versa. 

Security Culture 

there is of the knowledge getting into the wrong hands. Sharing such information with 
people who do not need it does them a disservice as well as the ones it puts at risk: it 
places them in the uncomfortable situation of being able to mess up other people's lives 
with a single misstep. If they are interrogated, for example, they will have something to 
hide, rather than being able to honestly claim ignorance. 

Don't ask, don't tell. Don't ask others to share any confidential information you don't need 
to know. Don't brag about illegal things you or others have done, or mention things that 
are going to happen or might happen, or even refer to another person's interest in being 
involved in such activities. Stay aware whenever you speak, don't let chance allusions 
drop out thoughtlessly. 

You can say no at any time to anyone about anything. Don't answer any questions you don't 
want to — not just with police officers, but also with other activists and even close friends: 
if there's something you don't feel safe sharing, don't. This also means being comfort- 
able with others doing the same with you: if there's a conversation they want to keep to 
themselves, or they ask you not to be part of a meeting or project, you shouldn't take 
this personally — it's for everyone's good that they're free to do so. For that matter, don't 
participate in any projects you don't feel good about, or collaborate with anyone you feel 
ill at ease with, or ignore your gut feeling in any situation; if something goes wrong and 
you get into trouble, you don't want to have any regrets. You're responsible for not letting 
anyone (not even yourself!) talk you into taking risks you're not ready for. 

Don't ever turn yourjHends over to your enemies. If captured, never, ever give up any infor- 
mation that could endanger anyone else. Some recommend an explicit oath be sworn by 
all participants in a direct action group: that way, in a worst-case scenario, when pressure 

might make it hard to distinguish between giving up a few harmless details and totally 
selling out, everyone wUl know exactly what commitments they made to each other. 

Don't make it too easy for your enemies to figure out what you're up to. Don't be too predict- 
able in the methods you employ, or the targets you choose, or the times and places you 
meet to discuss things. Don't be too visible in the pubhc aspects of the struggle in which 
you do your most serious direct action: keep your name oflF mailing lists and out of the 
media, perhaps avoid association with aboveground organizations and campaigns en- 
tirely. If you're involved in really serious clandestine activities with a few comrades, you 
may want to limit your interactions in public, if not avoid each other altogether. Federal 
agents can easily get access to the phone numbers dialed from your phone, and will use 
such lists to establish connections between individuals; the same goes for your email, 
and for that matter the books you check out from Ubraries. Don't leave a trail: credit card 
use, gas cards, cell phone calls all leave a record of your motions, purchases, contacts. 
Have a cover story, supported by verifiable facts. Be careful about what your trash could 
reveal about you — dropouts aren't the only ones who go dumpstering! Keep track of ev- 
ery written document and incriminating photocopy — ^keep them aU in one place, so you 
can't accidentally forget one — and destroy them as soon as possible. The fewer there are 
in the first place, the better — get used to using your memory. Make sure there aren't any 
ghosts of such writing left behind in impressions on the surfaces you were writing on, 
whether these be wooden desks or pads of paper. Assume that every use of computers 
leaves a track, too. 

You can send communiques 
regarding clandestine actions from 
one-use-only ennail accounts on 
public computers, bearing in mind 
that most libraries have camera 
surveillance that monitors who 
comes in and out, or to a trusted but 
unconnected representative who will 
circulate them for you. 

Don't throw any direct action ideas around in public that you think you might want to try 

at some point. Wait to propose an idea until you can gather a group of individuals that security Culture 

you expect will all be interested in trying it; the exception is the bosom companion vrith 463 

When anonymously submitting a 

hard-copy press release to the media, 

print out your announcement at a 

library or cyber-cafe, and handle it 

and the envelope with latex gloves; 

if you must disguise the use of latex 

gloves, you can wear one of those 

sweaters with long sleeves that hang 

down past your hands — you'll look 

more cute than dangerous. 

whom you brainstorm and hash out details in advance — safely outside your home and 
away from mixed company, of course. Don't propose your idea until you think the time 
is right for it to be tried, to minimize the length of the vulnerable period during which 
the idea is out there without being put into action. Invite only those you are pretty 
certain will want to join in — everyone you invite who doesn't end up participating is a 
needless security risk, and this can be doubly problematic if it turns out they feel your 
proposed activity is laughably dumb or morally wrong. Only invite people who can keep 
secrets — this is critical whether or not they decide to participate. 

Develop a private shorthand for communicating with your comrades in public. It's important 
to work out a way to communicate surreptitiously with your trusted friends about se- 
curity issues and comfort levels while in public situations, such as at a meeting called 
to discuss possible direct action. Knowing how to gauge each other's feelings without 
others being able to tell that you are sending messages back and forth will save you the 
headache of trying to guess each other's thoughts about a situation or individual, and 
help you avoid acting strangely when you can't take your friend aside in the middle of 
things to compare notes. By the time you have convened a larger group to propose an 
action plan, you and your friends should be clear on what each other's intentions, will- 
ingness to run risks, levels of commitment, and opinions of others are, to save time and 
avoid unnecessary ambiguity. If you haven't been part of a direct action planning circle 
before, youll be surprised how complicated and convoluted they can get even when 
everyone does arrive prepared. 

Security Culture 

Develop methods to establish the security level of a group or situation. One quick procedure 
you can run at the beginning of a larger meeting at which not everyone is acquainted is 
the "vouched for" game: as each person introduces himself, all who can vouch for him 

raise their hands. Hopefully, each person is connected to the others by some link in the 

chain; either way, at least everybody knows how things stand. An activist who under- You can use a Polaroid camera to take 
stands the importance of good security will not feel insulted in such a situation if there photos that are too sensitive to be 
is no one present who can vouch for him and the others ask him to leave. 

Meeting location is an important factor in security. You don't want a place that can be 
monitored {no private residences), you don't want a place where you can be observed 
all together (not the park across from the site of the next day's actions), you don't want 
a place where you can be seen entering and leaving or that someone could enter un- 
expectedly — ^post scouts, lock the door once things get started, watch out for anything 
suspicious. I'll never forget exiting an ultra -high security meeting in a university base- 
ment only to discover that while we'd been locked in, a crowd of liberal student protest- 
ers had flooded the adjoining room to watch a slideshow — which all the organizers of 
the next day's militant black bloc had to wade through in embarrassment! Oops! Small 
groups can take walks and chat; larger groups can meet in quiet outdoor settings- — go 

hiking or camping, if there's time— or in private rooms in public buildings, such as y^^ ^^^ ^^^^ ^.^i^^ir^l artwork with 
library study rooms or empty classrooms. Best-case scenario: though he has no idea Polaroids by scratching and pressing 
you're involved in direct action, you're close with the old guy who runs the cafe across ^"^ ^^e photos as they develop: they'll 
^ iiiTiir r • come out with crazy colors and 

town, and he doesn't mind lettmg you have the back room one atternoon tor a private designs in the picture. 

party, no questions asked, 

Be aware of the reliahility of those around you, especially those with whom you might collabo- 
rate in underground activities. Be conscious of how long you've known people, how far 
back their involvement in your community and their lives outside of it can be traced, 
and what others' experiences with them have been. The friends you grew up with, if you security Culture 
still have any of them in your life, are the best possible companions for direct action, 465 

as you are familiar with their strengths and weaknesses and the ways they handle pres- 
sure — and you know for a fact they are who they say they are. Make sure only to trust 
your safety and the safety of your projects to level-headed folks who share the same pri- 
orities and commitments and have nothing to prove. In the long term, strive to build up 

a community of people with long-standing friendships and experience acting together. 
You can make a hand-warmer out of a -.i ^ t -t • . jj i j^ j. ^i i 

, □ I . , r, ,. , With national and mtemational ties to other such communities. 

used Polaroid film canister once you re 
done with it: break the cartridge open, 
take out the battery to use for something Oon't get too distracted worrying about whether people are infiltrators or not; if your security 
else, and connect the wires — it'll be nr ^- -^ r u ,^ ^^ t^ >. . i i ir- 

quite hot for a few minutes measures are ejjedwe, it shouldnt even matter Don t waste your energy and make yourself 

paranoid and unsociable suspecting everybody you meet. If you keep all sensitive infor- 
mation inside the circle of people it concerns, only collaborate with reliable and expe- 
rienced friends whose history you can verify, and never give away anything about your 
private activities, agents and police informers will be powerless to gather evidence to use 
against you. A good security culture should make it practically irrelevant whether these 
vermin are active in your community or not. The important thing is not whether or not 
a person is involved with the cops, but whether or not he constitutes a security risk; if 
he is deemed insecure (double meaning intended here), he should never be permitted 
to end up in a situation where anyone's safety depends on him. 

Learn and abide by the security expectations of each person you interact with, and respect 
differences in style. To collaborate with others, you have to make sure they feel at home 
with you; even if you're not collaborating with them, you don't want to make them 
uncomfortable or disregard a danger they understand better than you. When it comes 
to planning direct action, not abiding by the security culture accepted in a given com- 
Securitv Culture munity can blow not only your chances to cooperate wdth others on a project, but the 
466 possibility of the project happening at all — for example, if you bring up an idea others 

were planning to try in a setting they deem insecure, they may be forced to abandon the 
plan as it may now be associated with them. Ask people to outline for you their specific 
security needs before you even broach the subject of direct action. 

Let others know exactly what your needs are when it comes to security. The corollary of abid- 
ing by others' expectations is that you must make it easy for others to abide by yours. At 
the beginning of any relationship in which your private political life may become an is- 
sue, emphasize that there are details of your activities that you need to keep to yourself. 
This can save you a lot of drama in situations that are already stressful enough; the last 
thing you need on returning from a secret mission gone awry is to end up in a fight with 
your lover: "But if you trusted me, you would tell me about this! How do I know you're 
not out there sleeping with . . . !" It's not a matter of trust — sensitive information isn't a 
reward to be earned or deserved. 

Look out for other people. Make explicit to those around you what risks you may pose to 
them with your presence- or with actions you have planned, at least as much as you're 
able to without violating other precepts of security culture. Let them know to the extent 
you're able what risks you run yourself: for example, whether you can afford to be ar- 
rested (if there are outstanding warrants for you, if you are an illegal afien, etc.), what 
responsibilities you have to be free to keep up with, whether you have any allergies. 
Don't imperil others with your decisions, especially if you're not able to provide concrete 
support should they somehow get arrested and charged on account of your behavior. 
If someone else drops a banner in an area immediately adjacent to a fire you set, the 
police might charge them with arson; even if fiie charges can't stick, you don't want to 
risk their ill will, or accidentally block their planned escape route. If you help initiate a 
breakaway march that leaves the permitted zone, try to make sure you keep your body 

*A hiianoui example of why this is 
important occurred when Crimethlnc. 
agents Paul F. Maut and Niclt. F. 
Adams attempted to return to the 
continental United States afier a period 
spent hiding out in Alasi<:a. They were 
worried about how the Canadian 
customs agents would fee! about the 
massive quantities of assault rifle bullets 
they had with them, so they removed 
the panels on the doors of their car and 
secreted the bullets behind these. On 
the way to the border they picked up a 
[continued on next page] 

Security Culture 

[continued from previous page] 

hitchhiker, o nondescript, clean-cut 

fellow who seemed harmless. At the 

border checi(, both Crimethlnc. worken 

held their breath as the customs agent 

ran their I. D.s, but were relieved to 

receive them back without incident. 

They thought they were going to pass 

through the border without a hitch until 

the customs agent ran the hitchhiker's 

I. D.; suddenly armed officers surrounded 

their car and ordered them out at 

gunpoint. The hitchhiker, it turned out, 

was a long-time Greenpeace activist 

who had arrests in thirty countries! 

The officers strip-searched their car, at 

last removing the door panels, and the 

bullets clattered out onto the pavement. 

Our heroes spent the following four 

hours locked in interrogation rooms, 

Canadian policemen screaming, "Where 

are the guns? We know you have 

them — -tell us where they are!," and 

paying little heed to their protestations: 

"This is all a big misunderstanding — we 

don't have any guns. We're graphic 

designers — we have the bullets for a 

design project. Honest, officer!" 

Security Culture 

between the police and others who have come along but aren't necessarily clear on the 
risks involved; if you escalate a spontaneous parade by engaging in property destruction, 
make sure others who were unprepared for this are not still standing around in confu- 
sion when the police show up. Whatever risky projects you undertake, make sure you're 
prepared to go about them intelligently, so no one else will have to run unexpected risks 
to help you out when you make mistakes. 

Security culture is a form of etiquette, a way to avoid needless misunderstandings and poten- 
tially disastrous conflicts. Security concems should never be an excuse for making others 
feel left out or inferior— though it can take some finesse to avoid that! — just as no one 
should feel they have a "right" to be in on anything others prefer to keep to themselves. 
Those who violate the security culture of their communities should not be rebuked too 
harshly the first time — this isn't a question of being hip enough to activist decorum to 
join the in-group, but of establishing group expectations and gently helping people un- 
derstand their importance; besides, people are least able to absorb constructive criticism 
when they're put on the defensive. Nevertheless, such people should always be told im- 
mediately how they're putting others at risk, and what the consequences will be should 
they continue to do so. Those who can't grasp this must be tactfully but effectively shut 
out of all sensitive situations. 

Security culture is not paranoia institutionalized, but a way to avoid unhealthy paranoia by 
minimizing risks ahead of time. It is counterproductive to spend more energy worrying 
about how much surveillance you are under than is useful for decreasing the danger it 
poses, just as it is debilitating to be constantly second-guessing your precautions and 
doubting the authenticity of potential comrades. A good security culture should make 
everyone feel more relaxed and confident, not less. At the same time, it's equally un- 

productive to accuse those who adhere to security measures stricter than yours of being 
paranoid — remember, our enemies are out to get us. 

Don't \tt suspicion he used against you. If your foes can't learn your secrets, they will settle 
for turning you against each other. Undercover agents can spread rum.ors or throw around 
accusations to create dissension, mistrust, and resentment inside of or between groups. 
In extreme cases, they will falsify letters or take similar steps to frame activists. The main- 
stream media may participate in this, too, by reporting that there is an informant in a 
group when there is not one, by misrepresenting the politics or history of an individual or 
group in order to alienate potential allies, or by emphasizing over and over that there is a 
conflict between two branches of a movement until they really do mistrust one another. 
Again, a shrewd security culture that fosters an appropriately high level of trust and con- 
fidence should make such provocations nearly impossible on the personal level; when it 
comes to relations between proponents of different tactics and organizations of different 
stripes, remember the importance of solidarity and diversity of tactics, and trust that oth- 
ers do, too, even if media accounts suggest otherwise. Don't accept rumors or reports as 
fact: go to the source for confirmation every time, and be diplomatic about it. 

In suburban settings not conducive 
to setting fire to your paperwork, you 
can boil all of it, then knead it into a 
lump which you flush down the toilet 

in little pieces. 

Dov^i he intimidated hy bluffing. Police attention and surveillance is not necessarily an in- 
dication that they know anything specific about your plans or activities: often it indicates 
that they do not and are trying to frighten you out of continuing with them. Develop an 
instinct with which to sense when your cover has actually been blov^na and when your 
enemies are just trying to distress you into doing their work for them. 

Always be prepared for the possibility that you are under observation, hut don't mistake attract- 
ing surveillance for being effective. Even if everything you are doing is perfectly legal, you 

Security Culture 

may still receive attention and harassment from intelligence organizations if they feel 
you pose an inconvenience to their masters. In some regards, this can be for the best; 
the more they have to monitor, the more thinly spread their energies are, and the harder 
it is for them to pinpoint and neutralize subversives. At the same time, don't get caught 
up in the excitement of being under surveillance and begin to assume that the more the 
authorities pay attention to you, the more dangerous to them you must be — they're not 
that smart. They tend to be preoccupied wdth the resistance organizations whose ap- 
proaches most resemble their own; take advantage of this. The best tactics are the ones 
that reach people, make points, and exert leverage while not showing up on the radar of 
the powers that be, at least not until it is too late. In the best-case scenario, your activities 
will be well known to everyone except the authorities. 

You can keep phone numbers in 

code, so they won't be any use to 

authorities who confiscate your 

phone list or find a scrap of paper 

in your pocket: simply switch two or 

more of the digits. 

Security Culture 

Security culture involves a code of silence, hut it is not a code ofvoicelessness. The stories of 
our daring exploits in the struggle against capitalism must be told somehow, so every- 
one will know resistance is a real possibility put into action by real people; open incite- 
ments to insurrection must be made, so would-be revolutionaries can find each other 
and the revolutionary sentiments buried in the hearts of the masses find their way to 
the surface. A good security culture should preserve as much secrecy as is necessary 
for individuals to be safe in their underground activities, while still providing as much 
visibility for radical perspectives as possible. Most of the security tradition in the activist 
milieu today is derived from the past twenty years of animal rights and earth liberation 
activities; as such, it's perfectiy suited for the needs of small groups carrying out isolated 
illegal acts, but isn't always appropriate for more aboveground campaigns aimed at en- 
couraging generalized insubordination/insurrection. In some cases it can make sense 
to break the law openly, in order to provoke the participation of a large mass that can 
then provide safety in numbers. 

You should always balance the need to escape detection hy your enemies against the need to he 

accessible to potential friends. In the long run, secrecy alone cannot protect us — sooner 

or later they are going to find all of us, and if no one else understands what we're doing 

and what we want, they'll be able to liquidate us with impunity. Only the power of an 

informed and sympathetic (and hopefully similarly equipped) public can help us then. You can use BB guns or slingshots 

There should always be entryways into communities in which direct action is practiced, ^^^^oot out lights that are otherwise 

^ ^ ^ rr 1 1 J 1 ■ diflncuit to reach, ifyou need to act 

SO more and more people can join in. Those doing really serious stuff should keep it ^^ider cover of darkness. 

to themselves, of course, but every community should also have a person or two who 
vocally advocates and educates about direct action, and who can discreetly help trustwor- 
thy novices link up with others getting started. 

When you're planning an action, you should he^n by establishing the security level appropri- 
ate to it, and act accordingly Jrom there on. Learning to gauge the risks posed by an activity 
or situation and how to deal wdth them appropriately is not just a crucial part of staying 
out of jail; it also helps to know what you're not worried about, so you don't waste energy 
on unwarranted, cumbersome security measures. Keep in mind that a given action may 
have different aspects that demand different degrees of security; make sure to keep 
these distinct. Here's an example of a possible rating system for security levels: 

1. Only those who are directly involved in the action know of its existence. 

2. Trusted support persons also know about the action, but everyone in the group 
decides together who these will be. 

3. It is acceptable for the group to invite people to participate who might choose not 

to — ^that is, some outside the group may know about the action, but are still expected to security Culture 
keep it a secret. 471 

4- The group does not set a strict list of who is invited; participants are free to invite 
others and encourage them to do the same, vi^hile emphasizing that knowledge of the 
action is to be kept vrithin the circles of those who can be trusted with secrets. 

5. "Rumors" of the action can be spread far and wide through the community, but the 
identities of those at the center of the organizing are to be kept a secret. 

6. The action is announced openly, but with at least some degree of discretion, so as 
not to tip off the sleepier of the authorities. 

7. The action is totally announced and aboveground in all ways. 

You can report innocent liberals to 

the secret police for un-Annerican 

activities, to keep the latter busy 

and the former outraged about their 

invasions of privacy^which are 

otherwise usually resen/ed for us. 

Security Culture 

To give examples, security level #1 would be appropriate for a group planning to fire- 
bomb an SUV dealership, while level #2 would be acceptable for those planning more 
minor acts of property destruction, such as spray painting. Level #3 or #4 would be 
appropriate for calling a spokescouncil preceding a black bloc at a large demonstration 
or for a group planning to do a newspaper wrap, depending on the ratio of risk versus 
need for numbers. Level #5 would be perfect for a project such as hijacking a rock 
show: everyone hears in advance that the Ani DiFranco performance is going to end in 
a "spontaneous" antiwar march so people can prepare accordingly, but no one knows 
whose idea it is, so no one can be targeted as an organizer. Level #6 would be appropri- 
ate for announcing a Critical Mass bicycle ride: fliers are vvTapped around the handle- 
bars of every civilian bicycle, but no announcements are sent to the papers, so the cops 
won't be there at the beginning while the mass is still vulnerable. Level #7 is appropriate 
for a permitted antiwar march or independent media video screening, unless you're so 
dysfunctionally paranoid you even want to keep community outreach projects a secret. 

It also makes sense to choose the means of communication you vdll use according 
to the level of security demanded. Here's an example of different levels of communica- 
tions security, corresponding to the system just outlined above: 

1. No communication about the action except in person, outside the homes of those 
involved, in surveillance-free environments (e.g. the group goes camping to discuss 
plans); no discussion of the action except vv'hen it is absolutely necessary. 

2. Outside group meetings, involved individuals are free to discuss the action in sur- ^^^ ^^^ ^^^ ^^^^^ .^.^^ ^^ ^^.^^ ^^ 
veillance-free spaces. invisible ink — heat up the paper, and 

3. Discussions are permitted in homes not definitely under surveillance. it appears. 

4. Communication by encrypted email or on neutral telephone lines is acceptable. 

5. People can speak about the action over telephones, email, etc. provided they're care- 
ful not to give away certain details^ — who, what, when, where. 

6. Telephones, email, etc. are aU fair game; email listservs, fliering in public spaces, an- 
nouncements to newspapers, etc. may or may not be acceptable, on a case-by-case basis. 

7. Communication and proclamation by every possible medium are encouraged. 

If you keep hazardous information out of circulation and you follow suitable security 
measures in every project you undertake, you'll be well on your way to fulfilling what 
early Crimethlnc. agent Abbie Hoffman described as the first duty of the revolutionary: 
not getting caught. All the best in your adventures and misadventures, and remem- 
ber^ — you didn't hear it from us! 

You can create a seam sealing two 
sheets of plastic together by cutting 
them with a hot razor blade — try this 
for do-it-yourself lamination. 

Security Culture 


If your lover is a woman, you may 

be able to find her g-spot by putting 

your fingers inside of her with your 

palm facing up, and moving them in 

a becl<oning motion, exerting light 

pressure toward her belly. If he is a 

man, you can try the same thing a few 

inches further back! 


Lovemaking should be an uncomplicated matter of people enjoying themselves and each 
other however they like. Unfortunately, patriarchy and, more recently, capitalism have 
made this yet another site of domination and exploitation in our society and personal 
lives; we can still have a wonderful time together, but we all have to be careful on enter- 
ing into any sexual engagement that we make sure it's good for everyone involved. 

The first and most important matter in bed (or the stairwell of the parking deck, or 
wherever you are) is the question of consent. Most of us were raised by a society that 
didn't provide us with any skills for communication, one that in fact has constructed us 
in such a way that honest communication is very difficult for us. If you don't want some- 
thing, or you're not sure if you do, make it clear immediately, and talk with your partner 
about what you're feeling. If a person tells you to stop and you don't abide by his or her 
wishes, that's sexual assault, and if you beg and pressure, that's borderline coercion; but 
the absence of refusal does not necessarily equal consent, either. For all you know, your 
partner might not be into it and afraid to tell you, or just plain unsure. At every threshold 
in a sexual interaction, especially with someone you don't know intimately, you shotiLd 
ask out loud "do you want to . , ." or at least "is this OK?" Better yet, also ask what your 
partner is interested in, what he or she likes, and advice as to how to go about it. Some 
people may be too shy to speak about their tastes or pleasure, or bring these up; at the 
least, you can encourage them to let you know when you're doing something enjoyable, 
as well as make sure that they do indeed want to be engaged sexually vidth you, shy as 
they may be. Make sure also to be vocal about what you like in them, what you find 

beautiful, what they do that feels good and what else you might want or not want! 

Remember that many of us in this society, damaged as we are by its mutilations and 
humiliations, use sex and sexuality as ways to hurt and punish ourselves; unless you 
don't mind risking enabling someone you presumably care about to do this, it might 
make sense to hold off on getting into it with them until you feel like you know them 
well enough to sense where they're coming from. That goes both ways, too — make sure 
when you pursue sex with someone that you're not just using sexuality as a way to prove 
something to yourself or others, or get attention that it would be healthier to pursue in 
other ways, or make yourself feel bad. 

Before any kind of sexual activity that could enable disease transmission, you should 
check in with your partners. You needn't necessarily demand that they lay out their 
sexual histories for you in their entirety; someone who has been raped or abused may 
not feel ready to share this. What you need to establish is exactly what levels of risk you 
are exposing each other to, and what your needs are when it comes to protection. It 
almost goes without saying that it's a bad idea to be intimate in this way with someone 
you don't feel you can safely trust to tell you the whole truth. 

It's also critical that, if your lovemaldng could result in pregnancy, you both be clear 
in advance about whether you want children, how you feel about abortion, and how cer- 
tain you are about these feelings. Too many people have failed to have this conversation, 
and ended up unprepared parents! If a woman becomes pregnant, it is ultimately her 
choice whether she or not has the child, so men have to be particularly careful that they 
understand what their female partners' feelings are about parenthood, and that they are 
ready for surprise fatherhood if a partner changes her mind. Long-term partners should 
not assume that once this matter has been discussed, it is permanently resolved; check- 
ing in from time to time will help to protect you both from the development of assump- 
tions on one side and reticence about bringing up changes on the other. 

You can make love by whispering 
fantasies, dancing together or for 
each other, concentrating on parts 
of the body or libido that often go 
ignored, or in any number of other 
wonderful ways you never see in the 
movies — and that can't get you sick 
or pregnant. 



If you masturbate with your ears 

underwater, you can listen to your 

puise pounding faster and faster and 

harder and harder. 

You can decrease the risk of bladder 

infections by always urinating after 

you have sex. 

Many people use intoxicants as a means to get over their inhibitions and into bed with 
each other; this is a real problem, because intoxication interferes with people's abilities 
to think clearly, express themselves, and understand others. If you must have drunlcen, 
blundering sex, do it with a partner you know well and share a high level of trust with; 
othervidse, it's more responsible not to at all. 

Just as refusing to regard the products of animal exploitation as food can help you re- 
discover your ability to feel compassion in a desensitized society, it can be a worthwhile 
experiment to avoid pornography and conventional representations of sex. These gener- 
ally reinforce the notion of sex as a performance of domination and submission, and 
lust as a desire for objectified bodies that conform to unhealthy beauty norms — to such 
an extent that when two people who have spent their lives being conditioned by them 
come together in bed, it is not an intersection of two individuals, but of the images they 
put in place of themselves and each other. As my friend who counsels perpetrators of 
sexual abuse and domestic violence tells them, if all your sexual encounters have taken 
place under the influence of hierarchical programming, you've never made love — ^you 
don't know even know what it is. 

Don't regard your desires as fixed imperatives; explore, experiment, challenge your- 
self Don't take for granted that sexuality is limited to the bedroom alone; dancing, con- 
versing, exploring rooftops in the rain, all these can be thrilling ways to express erotic 
energy. Be honest with others — and, at least as important, supportive enough that they 
will not fear to be honest with you. All this is basically common sense, but it's another 
thing entirely to put it into practice. Best of luck! 

Account Wouldn't you like to know! 




It's been said that a capitalist will sell you the very rope with which to hang him; that Ingredients 

may be so, but he sure won't sell it to you at a price anyone but a fellow capitalist could 
afford. Don't despair, though: what you can't buy, you can steal. 

Shoplifting has some drawbacks. It can be more dangerous in terms of legal reper- 
cussions than other alternative means of gathering, and it doesn't discourage mass- 
production — or, for that matter, mass-consumption. All the same, sometimes what you 
need can't be found in the dumpsters — and if you're going to shoplift from time to time, 
it's good to stay in practice. 

There is a spiritual side to shoplifting. Being calm is important; it may even help to 

employ meditation techniques. Try method acting: be the harmless customer you are 
pretending to be. Be friendly when you interact wdth employees, ask questions if you 
need to, smile. Unless you are actually seen secreting items in your clothes, you will 
only be suspected if employees find you suspicious. 

Just the same, there is no standard appearance for shoplifters. Corporate research 
shows that teens shoplift the most, with middle-class, middle-aged women as a close 
second. Who would have thought? Maybe you wouldn't have, but any savvy security 
person knows this. Dress as yourself if you were a shopper, so you'll feel comfortable, 
but don't get lazy and assume you v^ll be ignored. 477 

Zen and the Art of Shoplifting 

Store detectives and undercover employees don't have a particular look, either. You 
can be busted by any of a whole cast of totally unexpected characters, some employed by 
the store, some not. Your best bet is to not let anyone observe your activities. 

Confidence is an asset, but be careful not to get cocky. Your ability to shoplift is a lim- 
ited resource; the more you do so, the higher the probability that you will eventually get 
caught. When this happens, your captors will prtobably try to make things difficult for 
you. If you get caught several times, you may feel compelled to stop shoplifting. Don't 
let that be the moment you realize it is better to have a long career supplying yourself 
and your community with necessities than it is to go out in a blaze of hubris trying to 
acquire more luxury items than the next consumer. 

When you work with a partner, make sure to find someone whose style is compatible 
with yours, so you won't have to deal with any stressful misunderstandings or disagree- 
ments in the midst of an already stressful mission. 

Sutveillance Cameras When you are in a store, keep track of cameras, but don't get intimidated. It is true that 
cameras get people busted, but research shows that they work best as deterrents. Keep 
in mind that most stores with dozens of cameras don't have dozens of employees studi- 
ously watching dozens of video monitors. More likely, it's one person watching one or 
two monitors, either rotating between cameras or split-screen viewing v^dth nine cam- 
eras per monitor. If this dimestore Big Brother gets interested in your activities, he can 
follow you from camera to camera through the store, but even then the cameras have 
wide angles and low resolution. Keep your movements subtle and casual. No store is 
free of blind spots. Find one and do your concealing there. 

The cameras covering the registers at the front of the store are called "hold-up cam- 

shoplifting eras." The silly notion of an Old- West-style stick-up at a super-mart provides a feeble 

478 excuse for the store to aim surveillance at its own employees, who are inevitably the main 

cause of what is known in the industry as shrinkage. Shrinkage research shows that half 
of what stores report as shopUfting loss is actually due to employee theft and damage to 
merchandise. See, the store doesn't trust its workers any more than it trusts you. Research 
also shows that when employees are paid well and cared for, theft drops significantly. If 
you are in a store with massive amounts of cameras on employees, you can be sure that 
the employees are poorly treated and probably don't give a damn about the company. 

Be respectful of employees. Don't be too obvious — this makes them feel like you 
think they're stupid. They may well not care if you steal, but for civility's sake you should 
do it subtly. 

If you're stealing a lot of stuff, it's a good idea to purchase at least one item; the security Decoys, Devices, Distractions 
guards will be less suspicious if you go out through the checkout lane. 

Alternatively, after you've pocketed what you need, you can ask an employee up front 
for an item that is unavailable — for instance, in a grocery store, ask if they have kero- 
sene. This will give you an excuse to walk out vrithout buying anything. 

There are several variations on this theme. After you've got what you need, you could 
bring an item vvdthout a tag up to the front and ask its price; when your question is an- 
swered, comment that it is too much, and leave. You could also fill your backpack and 
pockets with what you need, and a shopping basket with random items; when you have 
been rung up in the checkout line, explain that you've forgotten your wallet at home and 
you'll be right back. 

If you go shoplifting vnth a partner, one of you can dress nicely, and the other as a 
shifty-eyed thief Walk in separately; the one in hoodlum drag should sneak around 
looking suspicious, distracting security, while the well-dressed one fills up her bag and 
exits the store. In a variation on this method, one shopper fakes an epileptic seizure or 

similar crisis, while the other takes care of business. 479 


When you fly or travel by bus, beware 

of your friends stealing your luggage 

when you arrive — you can collect a 

lot of insurance, especially if you have 

receipts for the valuable itenns you lost. 

For companies giving out free items 

to those who have collected a certain 

number of stamps or other verifications 

of purchase, you can stand outside, 

asking if people mind getting stamps 

for you when they do their shopping, 

thus accumulating stamps while 

simultaneously educating consumers 

about their own coupon options. 

You can steal coupons from corporate 

stores, or replicate them — if the 

coupons need a stamp to be valid, just 

steal the stamps or stamper, as well. 

You can get free drinks at fast food 

restaurants by retrieving a cup from 

the trash and asking for a refill. 


If employees or customers are aware of you but not paying close attention, it is a good 
idea to take two of an item you need off the shelf, then put one back. This can be a good 
maneuver to fool surveillance cameras, too; their resolution is usually too low to show 
the number of items in your hand. 

At office supply stores with self-serve copiers, you can steal books, paper, or large flat 
items. Bring a backpack wdth some of your own books from home. Nonchalantly bring 
items you are going to steal over to the copy machines. Spend some time making pho- 
tocopies from your books. When no one is watching, slide items between the books and 
into your backpack. Pay for the copies and leave the store. 

If you have a cell phone, use it as a prop. Arrange to get a call while you are in line 
for the register vidth everything you need in a hand basket. Clamping one ear to the 
phone and the other hand over your other ear, stomp outside for some peace and quiet, 
perhaps forgetfully toting your basket along. Outside, finish your conversation, and, if 
no one has followed you, get into your BMW and drive off. If you are followed, it's cool, 
you just need to finish this call — Jeeeez! 

You can ask prudish employees about specific brands of "embarrassing" commodi- 
ties; afterwards they may avoid you. Better yet, find an employee and ask for assistance 
v^th something perfectly ordinary. With the employee close by looking at the shelf or 
leading you to the location, you vidll be less monitored by security guards and other em- 
ployees. Use this opportunity to conceal items. 

A couple can pose as distracted lovers, giggling, making out, and fondfing in a way 
that makes people embarrassed to watch, and take advantage of this embarrassment to 
grope products into place inside each other's clothes. 

This one's good for stores with two exits, or at busy times: get a few bags from the 
trash with the store's name on them, and fill them up in the comer of the store some- 

where. Have a receipt of some sort in your hand with a few bills and coins. Scrutinize 
the receipt and count your change while casually walking out. 

Since women often have handbags, it's easy to walk in a store with a bag in the front of Concealing 
the cart and fill it up with items. Keep in mind, though, that if you are suspected any bag 
on your person will be the first thing searched. 

A clipboard is a scary accessory used by authority figures. People treat me differently 
when I carry a clipboard, no matter what I'm up to! In a store, a clipboard can be very use- 
fijd; clip a shopping list to it for a pretext. Security cameras are usually up high; carry the 
clipboard in a way that allows you to remove packaging and magnetic strips in its shadow. 
Position the cHpboard as if you are scrutinizing your list, while you slip something into your 
pants or under your arm. Conceal flat items under the cHpboard; you can grip both with one 
hand and either exit the store or go through the line with an inexpensive product. 

To open and remove heavy-duty packaging unobtrusively, tape a razor blade or X-acto 
knife tip to the end of your finger, with the blade just barely out; it should look like you 
are wearing a bandage over a minor injury. 

Take in a stroller with you with a child or two in it — the bigger the stroller, the better. 
Shop with a store handbasket on your arm while pushing the stroller and quietly filling 
its compartments. 

Install a zippered opening on the side of your backpack that lies against your back; 
this can be perfect for secreting items. You can steal zippers from craft stores; get a 
quiet, smooth-moving one. 

Cargo pockets can provide good hiding spots, but there are a thousand other options. 
Tuck in the bottom of your shirt and slide things through your collar; while wearing a ^, ..^. 
baggy hooded sweatshirt, suck in your stomach and slide flat items halfway into your 481 

You can go to a corporate coffee shop 

around noon, insisting angrily that 

when you stopped by that morning 

to pick up coffee for everyone at your 

workplace, you asked for soymilk in 

the coffee- — and didn't discover they'd 

given you real milk until you arrived at 

work with the twelve coffees. 

pants, using the elastic of your underwear and the waist of your pants to hold them in 
place; put stuff in your sock while bending down to tie your shoe; slide items down the 
sleeves of puffy jackets with tight cuffs; slip small items into an opaque water botde with 
a wide mouth; cut a hole in the bottom of a jacket pocket so you can slip larger items 
through into the lining; sew extra pockets into your clothes. If you wear a coat or sweat- 
shirt that zips up in front, you can slip small items inside the coat and press them under 
your arm with lightning quickness. 

You don't have to conceal items to steal them — sometimes it works better to walk 
right out like you own them. In a grocery store, there may be a side door you can roll 
your full cart through and into the parking lot. 

To apply the same principle on a smaller scale, carry an expensive item in your left 
hand or grip it under your left arm while you pay for a cheap item with your right hand. 
Incredibly, employees will not notice the other item, I had to do this by accident before I 
could believe that it works, but it does. The best part is that you have not concealed any- 
thing — if the cashier notices, it looks like an honest mistake, and you can purchase the 
item, assuming you have the money to. If not, you had it separate from the other items 
because you needed to get a price check. SiUy you. One tip: when you use this technique, 
have the correct amount of money ready before you get in line; you don't want to be 
fumbling for your cash one-handed. 

Of course, if you can use or consume the item inside the store, you needn't worry 
about getting it out in the first place. 

Scams and Tricks 


If you need cash or an item that is too difficult to shoplift, you can take a stolen item 
to the returns desk, claiming to have bought it; fewer and fewer stores will give you a 
refiand or exchange unless you present a receipt, but there are ways to get those, too. 
I've found that with return scams, it is less suspicious to place the item in some sort of 

bag or in your backpack, get in a normal line, and ask, "Can 1 make a return here?" They 
will send you over to the return desk; this looks better than just walking up to the return 
desk from inside the store. Even better, get the item out of the store altogether and have 
a friend go in and return it, or come back another day That way the most you can get 
busted for is shoplifting, which is usually less serious than "obtaining property or cash 
under false pretense." 

Women's underwear and accessories are perfect items for men to return. The ste- 
reotypical man always screws up when buying stuff for his girlfriend, wife, or mother. 
When it comes to lingerie, it's easy for a guy with a rueful look to get sympathy and a 
quick exchange or refund, like most exchanges, this works particularly well around 

You can slightly damage or scratch an item you need and sneak it up to the front 
desk. Attempt to return the item, and let the employee find that it is damaged and refuse 
to take it back. Act like an irritated customer and leave the store with the item. If the 
employee doesn't notice and gives you store credit or cash, you can go back and get an 
unscratched one, if you're so inclined. Alternatively, just damage an item or throw it into 
the trash inside the store and wait for it to show up in the dumpster. 

You can remove an expensive item from its box and place it in a box with a cheaper price 
on it. Be prepared to play the irritated customer if the cashier notices this. Don't do this 
with shoes — employees sometimes check inside; instead, you might be able to try them 
on, leave your old shoes in the box, and just walk right out. It also might be possible to 
conceal one small, expensive item in another big, cheap one before purchasing the latter. 

At many stores, you can go to the stocking areas in the back and ask for boxes for 
moving. Have a few people ready to carry lots of empty boxes, except for one or two that 
you will quickly fill up before walking out the door. Don't make them too heavy — they 
have to look light as air as you carry them away. 

You can write to companies informing 
them that you really enjoy their product, 
or that you were shocked to find you 
had purchased a defective item, or that 
your son has become a vegetarian and 
you want to give him soymilk coupons 
for his birthday — they'll probably send 
you free coupons. 

If you need expensive equipment to film 
a documentary or record an album or 
just watch a movie with your friends, 
you can purchase it from a place with a 
return policy that gives you enough time 
before the trial period is over to take 
care of your needs before returning it for 
your money back. 


Two people can work together, one gathering items, removing their tags, and stash- 
ing them somewhere, the other coming in afterwards and taking the prepared items 
out swiftly. 

Dressing rooms are a great place to cut off security tags. You can sew up the holes 
later. If a salesperson counted your items on your way in, make sure you still have the 
item you want in your hand as you walk out. 

Finally, if you are a computer hacker or graphic designer, you could print your own 
barcode stickers. To obtain items at cheaper prices, substitute the barcode for a similar 
item; to wreck a store's checkout system, distribute the stickers randomly on products 
throughout the store. 

Precautions Since laws vary from state to state, it's good to know the local laws and penalties. For 
instance, if you are in an area where it is a felony to shoplift a value of $ioo or more, you 
might choose to steal no more than $99 of merchandise at a time. 

Look through the vwndows of a store for cameras before you enter; make note of 
alarm sensors, security personnel, and receipt checkers. If you look to the ceiling for 
cameras while you're inside, move your eyes, not your whole head. 

Often, it's wise not to pocket an item until you have moved away from the place you 
picked it up. Consider which areas of the store will be under special observation — de- 
partments with small, expensive items prized by shoplifters, for example. Take your 
items to aisles stocked with bulky, inexpensive items. For example, throw the tooth- 
brush in your cart while you are in the medicine and beauty product aisle, unwrap and 
conceal it in the toilet paper aisle. 

Always look for security tags inside packages — inside the boxes of CDs, for example. 
Shoplifting ^^jou see that the store has an alarm system, it is usually safer to take items out of their 
484 packaging entirely. 

when leaving a store with security tags, time your passage through the sensors to 
coincide with other shopper traffic. If you set it off, keep walking. False alarms are not 
uncommon, and the more customers there are, the more confusion there wiU be to 
cover your getaway. 

Look out for vigilante customers who may turn you in or attempt a citizen's arrest. 

Flat mirrors are almost always two-way. To be safe, assume that somebody is indeed 
watching you. As for the round ones, if you can't see the employee, she can't see you — 
but be careful, sometimes they have cameras behind them. 

If you set off alarms, keep walking and ignore them; employees are often slow to react, 
used to false alarms, or too timid to accuse people of stealing unless they act guilty. If 
necessary, you might be able to walk into a nearby store and ditch the item. 

If you are caught and there is any heavy-handedness on the part of the store detec- 
tive, employee, or rent-a-cop, get indignant and make a racket about a lawsuit. Lawsuits 
brought by shoplifters whose rights have been violated in apprehension represent a 
large cost for major retailers, and threats may put them back on the defensive. If you 
plan to go this route, it's best to know your rights to the letter so you can strike fear into 
their hearts with chilling accuracy. 

You might want to bring enough money with you to purchase the item in the event that 
you get caught. Sometimes the store will settle on that and leave the authorities out of it. 

If employees see you with your hands in your pockets, try pulling out some money to 
count or a shopping list to look at. 

If you are doing a return and they are treating you like a thief, stand your ground. 
Remember, you are a customer who bought the wrong item and have no thought of 
swallowing that cost. If the manager is brought in and begins to say no, don't walk away 
like a whipped dog. Ask to see a copy of the store return policy. Get mad: you are going 

Trouble in Paradise 


to complain in writing; you are calling the Better Business Bureau; you are writing a let- 
ter to the editor; you have been a loyal customer for years; you don't want an exchange 
anymore, you want a refund so you can take your business where it is appreciated. Of 
course, don't pull any of that nonsense unless you stole the item on a different visit or 
from another store. 

If a store detective is onto you, don't let on that you know. If you have to dump stuff, 
do it as carefully as you concealed it — you don't want to be caught dumping. If you are 
caught dumping, never let a store detective know it was because of them. Claim a mis- 
take or a guilty conscience and stick to your story. 

Experts advise store detectives and managers to look out for abnormal eye and neck 
movements. Darting, shifting, jittery eyes give everything away. Experts also warn about 
shoplifters who run reverse surveillance, looking all over the store, particularly at ceil- 
ings where cameras may be. A nervous thief may startle easily even when approached 
casually. A nerve-racked thief may look back or pause briefly before exiting or passing 
alarms, or yawn or otherwise fidget in exaggerated composure. Stay conscious of all 
such behaviors. By the time you leave, you are either suspect or you are not; one way 
or another, it's a done deal. If you're not under suspicion, don't attract it at the last mo- 
ment; if you set off an alarm or are chased, one last look before exiting isn't going to do 
you any good. 

Coordinated Strikes 


If enough people are ready for war, you could skip the subterfuges and mount a full 
frontal offensive. Have everyone dress as unremarkably as possible, and filter into the 
store one by one. When everyone is inside with their baskets full, someone sets off" the 
fire alarm or creates some similar distraction, giving the signal for everyone to charge 
the gates. Such an aggressive tact is bound to provoke the most aggressive response 
the corporation can muster, but it does put the issue of access to material goods on the 

table, and it may inspire others or even enable them to get away without paying, too. As 
long as you were careful not to give away your plan in advance, you could combine this 
tactic with an advertising campaign on their behalf: "Thursday May ist is free shop- 
ping day at Commodity Consumption Incorporated! Come take advantage of our low- 
est prices ever, and enjoy this show of appreciation to all our customers. Offer limited 
to one hand basket per shopper, between the hours of one and five p.m. — ioo% off, 
everything must go!" 

For an epic combination of the 
paralyzing-t he-store action and the 
action, you can go to a superstore that 
offers a money-back guarantee and buy 
all of their stock of a given product that 
is in special demand — then return it all 
the next day, repeating as desired. 

You can keep a video account of a 
cross-country trip without buying a 
video camera; just go each day to a 
store selling video camera equipment, 
and put your tape in the display model 
to record that day's installment. 

You can get a [ob working for a 
company you don't respect that has 
a resource you need — photocopies, 
film developing, food, information, 
art supplies — and hold it as long as it 
takes to smuggle out what you want; a 
circle of friends could do this together, 
each supplying a different resource. 


Smoke Bombs 


You can buy professionally made smoke bombs from fireworks vendors; they might even 
work better than homemade ones. But making them yourself is cheaper, can leave less of a 
trail, and involves you in the process, so you can manufacture them according to your needs. 



Old cooking pot 



Bowls or ice cube tray 

Cigarette lighter 


*This can be difficult to find in person, 

but you can obtain it from mailorder 

services that do business over the 

internet. Make sure not to leave a paper 

trail to yourself, if security is an issue. 


Mix two parts sugar to three parts saltpeter in the cooking pot. Heat this over a low flame, 
stirring constantly until it melts; this will take several minutes. Pour the mixture into an 
ice cube tray, or into bowls, depending on the size you want to make the smoke bombs. 
Allow them to cool and harden, and remove them from your molds. Once dried, they may 
get sticky in warm, humid weather— they're partly sugar, afi:er all — but they will still work. 
To apply one, light it with a cigarette lighter; this may take up to fifteen seconds. We 
don't recommend using matches to light them, as it is difficult to keep matches burning 
this long unless there is no wind. These smoke bombs bum like sparklers, rather than ex- 
ploding suddenly. Once lit, they can be thrown without going out. A smoke bomb the size 
of an ice cube will bum for perhaps twenty seconds. We made one the size of a fist, and 
when we tested it outside we were sure the fire department was going to come. One source 
recommends embedding matchsticks in them before they have dried, to aid in the lighting 
process; there are bound to be ways to arrange a delayed ignition, as well. 


The heart of anarchy is solidarity: people helping each other. While lonely capitalists Instructions 

view their fellow creatures as potential enemies, anarchists see others as potential 
friends and allies— and these different visions are self-fulfilling prophecies (see Spell 
Casting, pg. 501). Solidarity actions are a means of ushering potential friendships into 
existence, and making the world a friendlier place in the process. After all, you can never 
have too many friends, especially not if you live under the threat of state repression. If 
you want to break out of the system of competition, in which people only thrive to the 
extent that they make others suffer, your life v^dll depend on networks of friendship and 
mutual aid — and nothing makes friends faster than helping others. Every one of us has 
some kind of resource that can be shared — what do you have that other people need? 

Let's say, for example, you are part of a predominantly young and white anarchist com- 
munity, and a black man has just been shot dovm in cold blood by the police. You could 
contact his family and offer to screenprint shirts or posters for them to use for raising 
money and awareness {see Screenprint'mg, pg. 455), or you could use your graffiti skills to 
paint the town with his name, so the media can't sweep the whole thing under the rug (see 
Graffiti, pg. 258). Or let's say you are a tenured professor at a university, and know of a peo- 
ple that are being displaced from their lands by a petroleum corporation. You could offer to 
host speaking events for them, organize trips for students and others to visit their lands to 
witness what is happening, and campaign to force your university to cut any financial ties 
it has with the corporation. Nobody can do everything, but everybody can do something. 4^9 

Solidarity Begins at IHome When considering your options for solidarity actions, never underestimate your pow- 
ers. No life is too mundane, no skills et too limited, no gift too humble for one person to 
be of assistance to another. The most important forms of solidarity are the daily ones: 
babysitting, providing emotional support, sharing food and goods. You might not call it 
an Action to spend an evening babysitting your neighbor's children, but it is such mod- 
est deeds that make communities of resistance possible. The everyday affairs of being a 
reliable friend, a gentle lover, and a courageous ally form the bread and butter of revolu- 
tion — after all, our friendships form the foundation of our affinity groups. 

Many clashes between capital and community do not have glory, fame, or glamor as- 
sociated with them, but that doesn't make them any less important. If everyone moved to 
Chiapas to take part in the Zapatistas' struggle while ignoring the struggles taking place 
in their own backyards, our chances of creating global change would be slim indeed. 
The Zapatistas probably don't need too many anarchists wandering aimlessly around 
their villages and getting lost in the jungle, anyway! As they've said themselves: What 
is required is that revolutionaries live and fight the system everywhere — and that includes 
wherever it is that you live. The exotic attraction that faraway struggles exert is a relative 
matter, after all: for a young white college student, helping translate the demands of 
Hispanic janitors into English can be a whole different world, just as a jaded Zapatista 
soldier might find ft romantic and adventurous to help defend the century-old home- 
steads of Appalachian mountain families against coal companies. 

There are probably opportunities for solidarity actions right down the street from 
where you live. You may be the only one knows about them, or the only person who 
might help; don't miss the chance to do so while fantasizing about aiding revolutionar- 
ies on the other side of the planet! If you take a local issue seriously enough, ft might 
Solidarity ^^^^ ^^^^ ^° ^e known around the world— and then perhaps others will show up from 
490 far away to act in solidarity with you. 

Local solidarity is important— but that being said, it can also be good to travel to share Traveling to Solidarity Actions 
resources with people in other lands and circumstances. From time to time, you may 
need to leave home, anyway, and if you're going to visit another locale you might as well 
make yourself useful there! Traveling to distant places to offer solidarity can give you 
a vidder base of experience to inform your participation in local struggles; it can also 
provide a welcome breath of fresh air when your struggles at home have become mo- 
notonous or seem hopeless. 

Great distances and time-consuming voyages often discourage people from going to 
far-off places to participate in solidarity actions. However, when it comes to travel, many 
anarchists have options others do not. The secret weapons of unemployment, hitchhik- 
ing, and trainhopping can offer the free time and free passage to get almost anywhere. 
Those who possess the opportunity to use such means should apply them for the good 
of all. Obtaining overseas plane tickets can be more challenging, but you can look into 
standby fares, courier fares, and student discounts. If you have access to